Tillamook area firefighters have been sent to aide in the Southern California fires that are raging through avocado and orange orchards, homes, dense scrub brush, cacti and oak fuels, and as the winds pick up it makes for a different scene than northwest firefighters are accustomed to.
By Brian Cameron
“The values at risk in these communities are much different than what we’re used to in Tillamook,” said Josh White, Engine Boss, ODF. “Because of the light, flashy fuels and how fast fires can just pick up and run in an instant, there’s a lot more structure protection and holding from roads than we’re used to.”
White, and other Tillamook District personnel were all dispatched to the fire that is currently building in severity. In addition to Tillamook area personnel ODF sent a total of five Task Forces with 25 fire engines to help CAL FIRE resources tackle the growing forest fire nearby the Los Angeles greater metropolitan area.
“So far from Tillamook ODF we have sent two engines to the Thomas Fire,” said Ed Wallmark, Protection Unit Forester, ODF. “They headed down to Ventura on Friday and it’s likely they won’t be home until after Christmas.”
The Strike Teams that have been sent to California are made up of various district personnel throughout the entire state of Oregon, along with their engine resources the average strike team consists of Type-6 brushfire engines which can carry up to 400 gallons of water.
“The notion of having resources from the State of Oregon allocated over our borders isn’t a new one,” said Jim Gersbach, Public Information Officer, ODF. “It boils down to interagency agreements with other States and even the Canadian Provinces, we’ve sent folks over to North Carolina, New Mexico and California, so long as we can spare the resources we’re obliged to help out on out-of-state incidents.”
According to Gersbach the Thomas Fire in Ventura and parts of Santa Barbara is only 30 percent contained and is considered the fourth largest blaze in California history, growing over 242,500 acres and showing little sign of ceasing its progression.
“It seems to be growing more evident that we send resources out of state and during our off-season,” said Kevin Hill, Protection Unit Supervisor, Tillamook ODF. “Last year we sent some to North Carolina to help with their fires, and this year I know the agency sent more to Northern California, but to have the need in December is a little unusual, but not unheard of.”