Illegal campfire leads to partnership in action

Merlin, Ore. — As fire season progresses, Oregon State Police and Oregon Department of Forestry are taking advantage of a unique partnership.

Over the years, the partnership has seen changes, but the goal is always the same – help each other do their jobs to keep you safe.

From closing down roads during wildfires to dealing with challenging people, ODF and OSP say they’re never afraid to call each other for help.

“We don’t want one tiny spark to be the next wildfire. And if that means we have to call our partner agencies… so be it,” Oregon Department of Forestry’s Melissa Cano said.

Wednesday night, Oregon Department of Forestry was called to a suspected fire off Abegg Road near Merlin.

“When they got there, they found a couple people having an illegal campfire in a place that was not even an area that you can camp overnight,” Cano said.

As firefighters worked to deal with the fire, police say the campers started acting up.

“The people at the camp from what I was told were drinking and intoxicated… a little unruly,” Sergeant Proulx said.

So the firefighters called for back up bringing a few units from Oregon State Police out to the scene.

OSP Sergeant Jeff Proulx says it quickly helped to diffuse the tension.

“Usually when law enforcement shows up, they tend to obey uh a little sooner than later,” Sergeant Proulx said.

Melissa Cano with ODF says situations like these happen more often than desired.

That’s why she and Sergeant Proulx are thankful for their agency partnership.

“Their job is to put the fire out and make sure it doesn’t spread. They’re not there to enforce trespassing laws or anything like that, so when they run into a situation where they need assistance from law enforcement, State Police is always gonna be there to help,” Sergeant Proulx said.

Both agencies say their relationship has been strong for years and they plan to keep it that way so the community can continue to feel safe.

“If that partnership doesn’t exist and it’s not there, we wouldn’t be able to keep those fires as small as we like to keep them around here,” Cano said.

With the fire danger level set at ‘high’, Oregon Department of Forestry says campfires are only allowed in designated campgrounds at this time.

NBC5 News Multimedia Journalist Elizabeth Ruiz was raised in Northern Colorado. She graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in Journalism and Media Communication. She also minored in Spanish and studied in Spain. While at Colorado State, she was an anchor and reporter for CTV Channel 11.

Elizabeth loves Zumba dancing, singing and spending time with her family.

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