Southern Oregon fire crews head to California to help

Talent, Ore. — Nearly 2 dozen southern Oregon firefighters and EMT’s are on their way to Napa County to assist with firefighting efforts. It’s the first time Oregon agencies have been asked to deploy to California, but the firefighters say they’re ready to help wherever it’s needed.

“California’s helped us, and they need our assistance,” Captain Ben Kennedy of Fire District #3 says.

5 trucks are loaded with equipment and overnight bags ahead of an assignment that could last fire crews up to 2 weeks.

“We’re all bringing wildland gear as well as our structural gear and we’re prepared for either or,” Matt Hilliker of Jackson County Fire District 5 says.

The deployment hits close to home for Hilliker. He’s a Mendocino County native and has both family and friends in the thick of the wildfire devastation.

“It’s hard not to be impacted by the significant amount of loss that we’re gonna face when we get there,” the engineer and Wildland Program Coordinator says.

For Hilliker and many of the responding crews, the scenario they’re about to face is unlike anything they’ve ever experienced.

“I’ve never seen that amount of fire in Oregon,” Captain Kennedy says.

Still, it’s a scenario they train for, and they’re ready. And while the responding crews don’t know what they’ll be doing, or even where they’ll be sleeping, they say they’re just honored to be able to lend a helping hand to a community in desperate need.

“We want to do everything we can to help out anyone in need and do our part to help with fire suppression and public safety, life safety,” Hilliker says.

“We’re all ready,” Kennedy says, “prepared and ready to go down and help out California.”

The 5 southern Oregon agencies heading south are Ashland Fire & Rescue, Medford Fire-Rescue, Jackson County Fire District #5, Fire District 3, and the Illinois Valley Fire District.

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