Rural residents form ‘Redneck Crew,’ help fight Riverside Fire

Wildfires

Residents, loggers, and volunteer firefighters stayed behind to protect homes

COLTON, Ore. (KOIN) — While hundreds of firefighters were working hard to contain the Riverside Fire in Clackamas County, there was a group of residents who stayed back early on to protect their neighborhood near Colton.

Some members of the group dubbed themselves the “Redneck Crew.” Some had never spoken before working together to protect each other’s homes and property. In total, the crew was composed of people from Colton, Molalla, Beavercreek and Canby.

“Redneck Crew” September 2020 (Courtesy Christine VanOeveren)

The week of September 8, John and Christine VanOeveren evacuated, but then returned.

“We didn’t want our place to go up or our neighbor’s place to go up. We were making a stand,” said John.

“We wanted to see it for ourselves and see if there way anything we could do to protect this—our woods, our community,” said Christine.

So, residents, loggers, and some volunteer firefighters came together.

“Redneck Crew, that’s what we called it,” said John.

“It was really boots on the ground, it wasn’t anything planned,” explained Christine.

But through word of mouth and social media, people brought shovels, dozers, and even water tenders.

“I looked down the line and I’d see twenty other men doing the same thing and I think that was just part of the success, being part of something bigger than us,” said Christine.

“Redneck Crew” September 2020 (Courtesy Christine VanOeveren)

There was more than just one crew, there were others. When firefighters got a good handle on the fire, the crew stepped back.

“Nobody got hurt and no one got in the professionals’ way,” said John.

While the Riverside Fire threatened their homes, it also brought them closer together.

“The biggest success was connecting with those human beings in one fight and one push to save all of our land,” said Christine.

KOIN 6 News reached out to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office as well as Riverside Fire officials for a comment on those who decided to stay back and fight the fire despite the evacuation order. Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Marcus Mendoza said, “The Sheriff and I actually met with a couple of their coordinators along with the federal incident commander… The sheriff thanked the group for their commitment to their community and all of their hard work.”

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