Two Colton firefighters spend a week-plus in northern California helping battle a summer wildfire

Colton Fire District dispatched a brush truck with firefighters Mike Decristoforo and Nate Kulland to the McKinney wildland fire in Northern California from July 31 to Aug. 7.

They were part of the Clackamas County Task Force sent to the Deadwood Baldy Peak area to provide structural protection during 24-hour shifts.

Kulland said the majority of the time was spent on the fire line reinforcing established fire breaks and checking the area to ensure the fires were completely extinguished and would not cross the fire lines.

COURTESY PHOTO: COLTON FIRE DISTRICT - Colton Volunteer Firefighters Mike Decristoforo and Nate Kulland before they hit the fire line in northern California in early August.

A mile or two of hose was laid through the previously burned areas and were used on hotspots and underground burns during "mop-up."

"We were told about the difficulties of our mission when we arrived," Kulland said. "It is very steep terrain with lots of snakes and lots of poison oak and the daily temperatures were in the mid 90s."

Kulland said in one 24-hour period there was a thunderstorm that dropped 3 ½ inches of rain. The terrain became so dangerous, with a likely chance of mud slides, they were called to come off the hill. He said the rain put a hold on some of the fires, but they quickly flared back up when the "monsoon" was over.

COURTESY PHOTO: COLTON FIRE DISTRICT - Firefighters putting out hot spots in the McKinney Forest zone.

The Clackamas County firefighters were stationed northwest of Yreka near the community of Klamath River. Between shifts the task force had air-conditioned sleeping units with provided meals.

"Everyone was so welcoming and thankful," Kulland said. "If we stopped to get coffee, someone always paid for it and made sure to tell us thank you."

Colton Fire Chief Todd Gary said the education and experience of wildland fire fighting that Decristoforo and Kulland had during their time on the fire line is important to the local district. The two will share and teach the know-how they learned during their hours fighting the McKinney fire with the volunteer firefighters at Colton Fire.

"This was made possible by a grant received from the Oregon State Fire Marshal that allowed us to have firefighters at the station during the days they are gone," Gary said. "Having the full-time firefighters in the station during high fire danger months makes it possible for us to respond and attack the initial fire and control it before it conflates."

Colton Fire has 22 of their volunteer firefighters certified and trained in wildland fire fighting.

Decristoforo said he was glad he had the chance to represent Colton Fire and Clackamas County in the joint venture to California, to not only help out people in need and fight fire, but to be able to learn and share what he learned with his community of firefighters in Colton.

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