JOSEPHINE COUNTY, Ore. — Hundreds of Oregon National Guard members are in Southern Oregon to help put out some of the region’s largest wildfires. They’ll be assisting the Oregon Department of Forestry on the Garner Complex as well as the U.S. Forest Service on the Taylor Creek Fire.
147 seven additional National Guard service members are in training right now and will be boots on the ground, ready to start fighting flames tomorrow.
With Governor Kate Brown activating Operation Plan Smokey on July 18th, Oregon National Guard troops and other resources are available to assist with fires burning in Southern Oregon.
“It’s really that delegation from Governor Brown that has helped significantly to help get these folks on the ground that much sooner,” said Bobbi Doan, Oregon Department of Forestry. “And help add that capacity so we have that much more resources across the board.”
Doan says around 70 National Guard service members have already been here at the incident command in Josephine County assisting with traffic control and road blocks.
“We have taps, which is traffic assistance points that are here kind of helping with the community and with the public to make sure things are going smoothly,” said Doan.
On Tuesday, 147 additional National Guard troops arrived, ready to start fighting flames on the Grave Creek Fire. It’s the largest fire in the Garner Complex, which is burning in Jackson and Josephine Counties.
“[The National Guard is] heavily involved, right there side-by-side with our folks already out there…working on mop up and helping,” she said.
Doan says the fires in the Garner Complex are in ‘mop up’ mode, meaning they’re close to being fully contained and National Guard troops will help strengthen fire lines already in place.
“They’re working towards the Southern end of the Garner Fire right now and looking to really get this wrapped up as soon as we can.”
Meanwhile, the Taylor Creek Fire that was separated from the Garner Complex on Monday is still burning strong at nearly 30 thousand acres.
Kale Casey of the U.S. Forest Service says they’re also getting some extra help from the National Guard.
“Year after year, they give us a lot of extra energy…cause they’re fresh and a lot of these firefighters are already really tired, so it kind of lifts everybody’s spirits up,” he said.
Casey says they’re receiving between three and five 20-person National Guard crews, and it’s welcome support.
“Every single hour, the amount of production, the amount of mop up increases drastically…and that gets more people home,” Casey said. “Yesterday, we put 386 people back in their houses by dropping the evacuation level, that’s what the guard can help us do.”
Both agencies say they’re thankful for the extra help and resources. While ODF says they’ll get help from the National Guard tomorrow, the U.S. Forest Service says they’re not sure when they’ll receive ground support from the National Guard, but believe it will happen soon.