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'As a wife I want to be selfish and ask him to stay for his family, but I know it's in his soul to stand up and protect the community that we love.'

The Colton volunteer firefighters are putting their lives on the line for their community, and their families are in it with them. Three of the volunteers' wives share with us their emotions, fears and everyday lives.

From Bethany West, wife of Chris West, who is volunteering his service with the local fire department:

"The fear of losing your home is hard, but watching your husband walk away from safety and into danger to protect the community he loves is a feeling that's impossible to describe.

"As a wife I want to be selfish and ask him to stay for his family, but I know it's in his soul to stand up and protect the community that we love. They are family to us. The hardest part is knowing he would give his life for them.COURTESY PHOTO: CHRIS WEST - Volunteers fighting wildfires in Colton assess the forest fire line.

"I'll be honest, I don't sleep or eat when he's gone, but watching him walk back through the door is the best feeling in the world. I'm beyond proud of him and his heart. And I thank God for the crew he was working with. They are truly brothers and I trust them with his life."

From Sarah Cohoon, wife of District PIO Lt. Chris Cohoon:

"This is the hardest thing I've ever experienced. I have never felt so helpless, devastated and (afraid) at the same time. We've now moved twice. The first time Chris was able to help, but not the second time. I'm lucky he has cell service where he is to be able to check in, but I end up crying every time we talk. The worry just consumes me.

"They (the kids) are older and understand what's going on. They usually reassure me. They tell me, 'Mom, he's been doing this over 20 years — nothing of this magnitude — but he's smart and he'll be home before you know it.' They have been such a big help in keeping me going."

From Jacquie Behrens, wife of volunteer firefighter and department chaplain Tim Behrens:

"Tim was on the Unger Fire when it first started Monday night. He left the house around 9-9:30 p.m. and I guess they ended up going over to the mill in Molalla, then back to Unger around 1:30 a.m. and he wasn't home when we all got up the next morning. … In fact, he wasn't home until he met up with us in Milwaukie (after evacuation) around 7 p.m. Tuesday night.

"Sometimes it's hard because we have a lot of children and I don't always feel very strong or like I want to do all this parenting or decision-making on my own, but when I know he's helping others, I couldn't be prouder of him. Just makes you buckle down and get it done, push past the fear. Hardest part is probably reassuring the kids when you're not 100% sure what's going on yourself."

The Colton community already is talking about a celebration to honor the firefighters and their families when everyone can get back home and be together.

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