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After Battling Fires In Oregon, Firefighters Head To California


Fire crews in Oregon are heading to Northern California where fast-moving blazes ripping through the region’s iconic wine country continue to threaten thousands of homes and have killed at least 21 people.

The Oregon State Fire Marshal’s office is deploying 10 strike teams totaling about 200 people. On Monday, the Oregon Department of Forestry sent four engines manned by nine people from the department’s Medford, Klamath Falls and Grants Pass units. Cal Fire says about 21 wildfires have burned 162,000 acres in Northern California so far.

“Basically they’re going to be bouncing from fire to fire or county to county and be put to best use on where they can help knock down and contain this fire,” said Melissa Cano, a public affairs specialist with the Oregon forestry department. “They’re going to be on the front lines for sure.”

Oregon officials say it’s highly likely the people and equipment deployed to California also battled blazes such as the Eagle Creek Fire still burning in the Columbia River Gorge.

“Certainly with the fire season we’ve had this year, there’s a high likelihood that most of these folks have been deployed on one of our wildfires this year,” said Rich Hoover with the Oregon Fire Marshal’s office. 

The strike teams are made up of firefighting equipment and crews from a number of counties in Oregon.

CalFire requested that the Oregon State Fire Marshal send up to 50 engines. Each of the 10 strike teams it chose to deploy includes an engine and leader.

ODF, meanwhile, is usually willing to send more resources, but Oregon’s own abnormal fire season has made the department cautious. The Eagle Creek Fire burning in the Columbia River Gorge has burned more than 48,000 acres and still remains at 50 percent containment.

“We’re still in fire season,” Cano said. “So we have to be cautious of how many resources we do send, because in the southern portion of the state it’s still likely that we can get a fire.”

The State Fire Marshal’s office says its crews will stay in California as long as needed and available. ODF crews will be on assignment in California for at least two weeks, though an extension is possible. 

“Due to the size and those wind gusts up to 70 mph that they’re getting down there, it’s going to be a challenging firefight for everyone involved,” Cano said.

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