Local fire chief being hailed a hero

"It’s tough to fight a fire with a broken heart."

Posted: Sep 11, 2020 6:37 PM
Updated: May 3, 2021 11:44 AM

BLUE RIVER, Ore. -- A small town fire chief is being hailed a local hero. Upper McKenzie Rural Fire Protection District Chief Christiana Rainbow Plews -- who most people call Chief Rainbow -- has been battling the Holiday Farm Fire since it broke out. 

She helped protect structures from more damage and saved lives all while her family's home and fire station was crumbling down. 

"It’s tough to fight a fire with a broken heart," Plews said.

They are the words of a fighter, a woman who proves she's willing to do whatever it takes to help her community.

"If I can keep one other person from feeling the loss that we have felt, it’s worth it," Plews said.

Chief Rainbow lost everything in the Holiday Farm Fire, including her home, half a dozen of her district volunteers’ homes and her station in the Upper McKenzie Rural Fire District.

However, that wasn't going to stop her from doing her job.

"Just to be able to compartmentalize that devastation and continue to do your job I’m in complete awe of," her son Kiger Plews said.

Chief Rainbow said it wasn't easy but there was no other option. She added that they have a job to do and they were going to do just that.

"I cried, I did fall apart, I’m not going to lie," Plews said.

But her priority was keeping others safe and supporting the crew members whose homes burned down.

"I try to get my folks that had lost everything off the line as soon as I could," Plews said.

However, they weren’t able to right away because of how the fire was moving. Once they finally got to take a step back and process what happened they went right back to work.

Just like their fearless leader, they wasted no time.

"They're all back there now, most of them have not even seen their homes," Plews said.

Plus they're all volunteers proving their dedication to the community even further.

"No jobs, no homes, no nothing, literally just the clothes on their back and fighting this wildfire right now,” Kiger Plews said.

To make things more impressive, her call to raise the evacuation level early is being credited for saving lives.

"She knew right away that it was something they were not going to be able to contain, and they did not have reinforcements coming anytime soon and so she just said let’s go let’s get them out because the alternative is I wait too long and something really bad happens," Kiger Plews said.

He said his mom is quick to blame herself. Even when she does everything right it's never good enough for her. But he said she is the strongest woman he has ever known. That is why he is thrilled she is finally getting some credit to show for it.

"She is somebody that has never received the recognition that she deserves. You know out of the tragedy, out of the devastation, there can come an appreciation of things that maybe were taken for granted beforehand," he said.

He hopes others will remember this story when they're watching crews battle these historic wildfires.

"Bringing awareness to the fact that they there are people out there who are struggling really bad. Giving anything you can, helping in any way you can, volunteering, even going up to someone you know that has lost something and giving them a hug would be helpful," Kiger Plews said.

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