Tales of the fire line: ‘Smoke in the face, fire on our heels’


"You can see the fire just consume the whole area"

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Firefighters who have spent a number of days battling neighboring blazes—the Beachie Creek and Lionshead Fires—are now catching their breath, and sharing their stories.

“Hot, long days, dirty, dusty roads, smoke in the face, fire on our heels. This is my form of serving my country, by serving the land that protects us locals.”

Jacob Kunhausen has been leading a group of 20 wildland firefighters who have been working almost around the clock to contain the flames burning on the east end of the Santiam Canyon.

(Courtesy Steelhead Enterprise)

“We were very fearful of the Beachie Creek Fire and the Lionshead Fire talking to each other,” said Kunhausen.

In all his years fighting wildfires, he said he’ll never forget what they experienced on Labor Day.

“We’ve never seen consecutive 30 mile-per-hour winds with gusts up to 40-plus miles per hour throughout the night,” explained Kunhausen. “At that point, spotting could happen up to five miles away.”

“It’s like, we try to trap the fire, in a sense, but it’s coming right at you, you can see it.”

Aleshia DeLanoy is a volunteer firefighter in Harrisburg. She has a full-time job, but was called in to help fight the Beachie Creek Fire during those devastating Labor Day winds.

“Trees are falling. You can hear the trees falling, you can see the fire just consume the whole area,” said DeLanoy. “It’s very scary at times because I have five kids.”

She spend the next few days evacuating people.

“It can be overwhelming sometimes. Your blood is pumping, you’re moving fast, just trying to pull everybody out that you can,” said DeLanoy.

She returned home Friday night after nearly two weeks on the fire lines, tasked with make sure the flames didn’t jump.

Kunhausen said this coming Monday, Sept. 21, they will have a firefighter training school. While they don’t typically train this late in the season, they are in serious need of firefighters. If you are interested, you can contact his company, Steelhead Enterprises.

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