Local firefighters battle blazes in Oregon, Washington
Woodburn Fire District Chief Joe Budge reported that wildfires cropping up around the state are keeping local firefighters busy.
"With the early onset of fire season, Woodburn Fire District and Hubbard Fire District members have been deployed to multiple wildland fires across the (Pacific) Northwest region," Budge said in a press release. "The requested deployments are being accomplished through a mix of volunteer and career members and cooperation between the two fire districts to fill the requests."
Among the conflagrations drawing area firefighters is the Jack Fire in the Umpqua National Forest, east of Roseburg in Douglas County. U.S. Forest Service reports that the Jack Fire was first reported in the late afternoon of July 5, and by July 10, it involved 9,330 acres of grass and timber, deploying 327 firefighters engaged in active spotting, flanking and torching. It is about 10% contained.
Budge said WFD career firefighter Lt. Jon Koenig and engineer Robb Gramzow have been dispatched to the Jack Fire.
Further south the Bootleg Fire was first reported on July 6, burning several thousand acres of timber, grass and underbrush northeast of Beatty in Klamath County. By July 10, reports indicated it had ballooned to 76,897 acres. Firefighters have so far been unable to contain it.
There are 46 total firefighting personnel battling that fire, including Chris DeBritto, a HFD volunteer lieutenant, Alex Weninger, a WFD career engineer, and WFD student resident volunteer Abby Frey. They are part of an Oregon State Fire Marshal's office incident management team.
Meanwhile, the Lick Creek wildfire 15 miles southeast of Pomeroy, Washington, (essentially between Walla Walla and Lewiston, Idaho), is burning 1,500 acres of timber grass and snags. Lighting caused the fire, first reported on the morning of July 7.
WFD retired firefighter Scott Mateson was deployed as an incident management overhead team member at Lick Creek. Budge said Mateson is working for WFD under a post-retirement contract
Budge added that on July 7 two Hubbard volunteers returned from a four-day deployment in Central Oregon as part of a Marion County task force that was prepositioned under a new OSFM plan implemented where extreme fire-risk conditions are imminent.
"The fire season is starting earlier than usual with the deployments beginning in June that do not ordinarily occur until July or August," Budge said. "The other thing that is new is the pre-deployment of resources before fire occurs when extreme risk for fire exists. This effort is being organized by the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal with the hopes of stopping a fire before it grows into a conflagration."
Marion County has already participated in two pre-deployments this year.
"Woodburn and Hubbard fire districts will be cooperating in the manner described above throughout the fire season," Budge noted. "As in the past, the deployment of district personnel and apparatus is being carefully managed to ensure an adequate level of coverage for both districts.
"The in-district needs always take precedence over engagement in the state and regional deployments," Budge stressed.
Moreover, expenses from out-of-region deployments are absorbed locally.
"All expenses incurred by the fire district during the deployments are reimbursed by the state of Oregon," Budge said, adding that in some cased there is a beneficial training and/or educational value involved.
"These events provide valuable experience for district members that becomes extremely beneficial when fires occur close to home, as they did last fall," Budge said. "The regional sharing of resources also paid huge dividends for Marion and Clackamas County when help was provided by fire agencies from all over the western United States and Canada to fight the fires and protect structures threatened by the Beachie Creek and Lions Head fires in the Santiam Canyon and the Riverside fire in Southeast Clackamas County."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.