Pictured left to right is Lt. Robinson, MFF/EMT Shaw, BC Morley and Capt. Hultman in front of Heavy Brush 121 which will be identified as Kansas State Engine 41 during their assignment. The crew left Aug. 18 and it was estimated they would be gone for a minimum of two weeks, but that has been extended. Photos courtesy of Fire District 1
On Aug. 18 four members from Fire District #1 Of Johnson County were deployed to the Umpqua North Complex Wildfire located in Roseburg, Oregon. The incident involves at least eight separate fires with a total of 3,414 acres. The cause of the fire was lightning.
“We at Fire District 1 have made the commitment to train all our firefighters in wildland firefighting and all field personnel have received a red card verifying the training,” said Chief Rob Kirk, Fire Dist. #1. “This specialized training was done to protect the large area of wildland that we cover and has also given us the opportunity to help with large scale wildland fire throughout the United State where property and lives are at risk.”
Pictures represent what firefighters are doing, but they do not tell the story of 16-hour days for 14 days straight and sleeping under the truck at night in remote areas with no showers for days at a time, Kirk said.
Firefighters are focused on reinforcing their control lines and contingency lines today as a high-pressure system builds over the Umpqua National Forest and temperatures rise above 100 degrees starting Sept. 1. A high of 104 is forecast for Saturday, along with relative humidity dropping into the 20s. The clear skies associated with this system will promote active burning that will test the work firefighters have done over the past two weeks, according to an Umpqua North Complex news release.
Aug. 31 marked day nine for crew members as they work under Division (P) at the Umpqua North Complex. The entire complex of fires are growing daily and have been estimated at roughly 21,000 acres total. The fire was originally at 4,000 acres when Fire Dist. #1 members were deployed.
The crew has been assigned to a multitude of tasks such as suppressing large spot fires, plumbing long hose lays in very steep and rough terrain, setting up remote water supplies and portable pumps. Crews have also been working closely with heavy equipment and have taken part in large scale burnout operations in heavy timber. Each day they have been very busy and don’t see any signs of the workload slowing down or stopping, according to a statement from FD #1.
The weather forecast looks less than favorable for the large scale incident which will make it even more difficult to completely contain the fire. Currently the fire is 7 percent contained with 21 crews, 6 helicopters, 80 engines, 17 dozers, 21 water tenders, 6 masticators, 5 skidgens totaling up to 1,022 personnel at the incident. With the large amount of resources already on site, there is still a need for additional fire resources. Lightning has been listed as the ignition source that started this fire on Aug. 9, 2017.
Recently, crews have been extended until Sept. 14, 2017. They are currently camping out at the Broken Arrow Spike Camp when resting from their assignments. There is still decent cell phone coverage for members to contact their loved ones and update them on their status.
“As the Chief, I am very proud of our accomplishments this area as our teams have been given the highest evaluations from the command staff’s in charge of these large-scale events every time we have gone out.,” Kirk said.