Banks Fire District heads to California to battle wildfires

Banks Fire District Brush Rig 13 and a crew of three prepare to head to California for a similar deployment in 2019. Photo: Banks Fire District

Brush Rig 13, two volunteers and one paid firefighter from Banks Fire District 13 have joined a number of Washington County crews along with crews from Clatsop, Linn, Lane, Marion and Yamhill counties to head to California to assist in fighting the state’s 24 major wildfires, which combined with other smaller fires have burned 3.9 million acres of land so far. 

According to Deanna Freidman, Executive Assistant with the Banks Fire District, the two volunteers are Alex Hallquist and Dylan Selleck, while paid employee Chris Lanter joined them on their southern trip.

“The Oregon Fire Mutual Aid System (OFMAS) typically mobilizes 15 task forces this time of year to California, given California’s significant losses and continued threat,” said State Fire Marshal Mariana Ruiz-Temple in a press release. “Oregon will be sending six task forces to California. Our thoughts are with California as they continue to be impacted by these fires. Earlier this month, California sent resources to Oregon to an immediate need on the Almeda fire.”

According to the Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM), this is the second time this year that Oregon has sent resources to help battle California wildfires, and California has returned the favor, recently sending crews in September to battle the Almeda Fire in Southern Oregon that destroyed more than 2,300 homes in Talent, Phoenix, and Medford. 

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The last time Oregon crews were in California, they spent a two week deployment on the LNU Lightning Complex, working with an Oregon contingent of three task forces and more than 50 personnel, returning on September 2, just in time for Oregon’s worst fire season in modern history. The Pacific Northwest, according to the OSFM, is at “preparedness level 3,” which means that the potential for a new significant wildfire has returned to normal, and that there are enough resources in-state to tackle new and existing wildfires. 

According to the OSFM, the crews left Friday morning at 6 a.m. for California.

In a social media post on Friday, Forest Grove Fire & Rescue, which is also heading to California, along with Banks Fire, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue and other agencies, the agency said there’s a difference between the terms “Task Force” and “Strike Team.” This deployment consists of several task forces. A strike team has five units or vehicles of the same type. 

“A Task Force is also 5 units, but it can consist of any unit type and is based on what the incident command needs for the incident. They are also led by a Task Force Leader to oversee the operations,” FGF&R said. 

This article has been updated with the names of the firefighters heading to California.

Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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