LANE COUNTY, Ore. — Fire crews in Lane County traveled south to help fight the wildfires in Douglas County, Sunday. Lane County Fire Defense Chief Chad Minter says five crews were on their way with one on stand by.
Two days after over 50 fires started in southern Douglas County, crews from all over Oregon began helping. Fire officials say the effort from multiple crews is crucial.
“When the fire bell rings, every agency whether it’s city, county, state, or federal, all the firefighting forces come together to save lives and protect property,” said Judith McHugh, Willamette National Forest Spokeswoman.
McHugh said the department has sent five privately contracted crews to Douglas County to help fight the blaze. Whether it’s protecting wildlife or structures, crews are needed to handle both.
“We all have our specific strong points. We can mix in where we need to so by us taking the structural component away from them, they can focus more on building fire line and putting out the actual wild land fire,” said Chief Minter.
Minter and McHugh both say wildfires are sparking sooner than they have in previous years.
“They’re starting earlier in the season and they’re lasting longer. Our fuels in the Willamette National Forest are as dry as they usually are three to four weeks from now. We’re a month ahead of schedule,” McHugh said.
This makes the collaborative effort from all forces equally important. Whether a firefighter is in the fire or helping move equipment, every role is crucial.
“Hopefully we can protect structures while we’re there but at times, also if there are less structures, we can also help them haul water. We kind of all do the same thing when needed,” Chief Minter said.
“It’s really an incredible effort when a fire comes, everyone works together. Folks who say government doesn’t work together, must not know any firefighters,” McHugh said.
Chief Minter says each of the five crews they sent down consisted of 17 members, a portion of which were volunteers. They will be gone for up to seven days. The private crews sent by the Willamette National Forest has 20 people per crew.