OR firefighters come home after battling CA blazes

Special Reports

Several crews returned Sunday after a nearly week-long deployment

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland Fire & Rescue crews spent Sunday unpacking and cleaning their trucks before some much needed unwinding, after a nearly week-long mobilization to help fight wildfires in California.

“Oregon sent 75 engines on October 27 down to help with several different fires,” Battalion Chief Chris Barney said.

Captain Chris Starling said the crews mobilized immediately. “We were on the road down to California within four hours.”

Portland Fire & Rescue is one of several agencies from Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties are just a few of the local crews that answered California’s call for aid.

“This is really a wonderful opportunity for us to help out people outside of our city and our county,” Barney said, adding that Oregon crews know someday, they may need to ask our neighboring states for help too.

Portland firefighters were on a strike team that responded to the Kincade Fire, a large, fast-moving wildfire in Sonoma County. Barney said the area was experiencing difficult conditions, with wind gusts up to 90 miles per hour.

“At that point, you’re really not fighting the fire,” he said. “You’re helping with the evacuation of the people trapped in the path of the fire, and really just looking to get them out of the area and protect ourselves, falling back to the point where we can actually do some good.”

As of Sunday, Cal Fire reported it had burned about 78,000 acres (for perspective, the city of Portland is about 92,800 acres).

Barney said crews worked three 24-hour shifts. Starling said even though they had tents and sleeping bags, it was difficult to actually rest because you might have to get up and go at any minute.

Now that they’re back, they can expect a break, but a short one.

“Everybody will get a day off or so,” Barney said. “And then back to work.”

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