GOOD FOR YOU: Windsor Severance Fire Rescue crew helps fight Washington wildfires
September 3, 2015
Three members of Windsor Severance Fire Rescue have worked long days, far away from home as they help fight wildfires in Washington.
Aug. 21 a Windsor Severance Type 6 wildland fire engine crew consisting of engine boss Michael Haynie, engineer Nate Berryman and firefighter Blake Weishel left home and went west to help in Washington.
As of Wednesday, the local crew is working on and patrolling a dozer line on the Kaniksu Complex Fire in northeast Washington, said Lt. Kerry Koppes, Windsor Severance Fire Rescue wildland coordinator.
"They're on a what we call a Type 6 engine, which is basically a brush engine or brush truck outfitted with wildfire equipment," he said. "Right now (they're) doing a lot of work and patrol on a dozer line to keep the fire from jumping the line."
The Windsor Severance crew is working to support the rest of the operation as they wait for help so they can perform a burnout operation to help control the fire. However, they will be reassigned as needed, Koppes said. Originally the crew was assigned to a structure protection detail, but they have so few resources available to fight the wildfires the crew was brought onto the dozer line.
"So, yeah, they're putting in some long hours," he said.
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Windsor Severance's wildland fire team has deployed to help other areas before, usually in Colorado, but sometimes out of state when needed, Windsor Severance Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Todd Vess said.
Lacking local wildfires, when Windsor Severance Fire Rescue got the call, they decided to deploy a crew to Washington to help, Vess said.
"They're in such desperate need for firefighters up there," he said.
The local crew could be out at the fires in Washington for as long as 21 days, Koppes said. At that time, if help is still needed, they will reassess the state's need and situation and possibly fly out a new crew to relieve the current one, he said.
Windsor Severance Fire rescue has had a wildland deployment team for about four wildfire seasons, Koppes said. They are affiliated with a regional group that coordinates firefighting resources that can be used by different agencies across the nation when they need help.
"It works pretty well for us," he said. "This experience and training gets our guys up to a level where they can be proficient … and learn a lot of information from these fires they respond to and train and bring a lot of that back to the guys we have locally."
Smoke from big wildfires burning east of the Cascade Range hurt air quality Wednesday and hampered efforts by crews battling the flames in Washington state.
So many fires are burning in the state that officials summoned help from fire managers in Australia and New Zealand. They also got 200 U.S. troops from a base in Tacoma in the first such use of active-duty soldiers in nine years.
The Oregon Military Department said soldiers were also ready to help battle a wildfire that has destroyed more than three dozen homes near John Day, about 150 miles east of Portland.
Fires also were burning in California, Montana and Idaho.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.