A group of 22 firefighters from the Portland area are headed to California to help fight the Camp Fire north of Sacramento, which by Friday morning had burned nearly 110 square miles.
The strike team is made up of people from Portland Fire & Rescue, the Port of Portland Fire Department and the Gresham Fire Department. They started off on the 12-hour trek to Chico, California at about noon on Friday.
They'll be equipped with five Type 1 engines, which can each carry 500 gallons of water, and can pump up to 2,500 gallons per minute from nearby waterways.
"They’re taking fire engines that are designed for city or structural firefighting," said PF&R Lt. Rich Chatman. "They’re being sent down south because there are cities and structures that are being threatened by that fast moving wildfire."
The group is among 15 teams deployed by Oregon State Fire Marshal Jim Walker to help with the fire. Crews from Rogue Valley, Klamath, Douglas, Lane, Marion, Linn, Benton, Lincoln, Polk, Washington, Clatsop, Columbia, Clackamas, and Yamhill counties are also joining the effort.
“Once again, our neighbors in California are in need of support, and even though Oregon had a very long fire season, our Oregon Fire Service has stepped up humbly to help,” Walker said.
Lt. Chatman said lately local crews have been pulled away more frequently to help with wildfires in California, as well Southern Oregon, Washington and Idaho, but that increased frequency doesn't make it any easier.
"Ultimately, within the last few hours they’ve had to pack up stuff from home, hug family members, let them know they’re going to be gone anywhere from a week to two weeks, and they know they’re going to a dangerous situation," Chatman said. "It is a very difficult thing, not only for these firefighters but for their families."
The firefighters plan to stay in California for about two weeks.
The Camp Fire is among three major wildfires burning in California that have already destroyed 2,000 structures and forced the evacuations of more than 150,000 people. At least five people died when fire tore through and destroyed the town of Paradise.