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Oregon fire chief loses home to Holiday Farm Fire while out battling the blaze

The community has rallied together to help Christiana Rainbow Plews, the fire chief of Upper McKenzie Rural Fire, as well as her family and crew.

MCKENZIE BRIDGE, Ore. — Being a firefighter is a permanent part of Christiana Rainbow Plews.

"Being able to help people and make a difference and know that you've been there in the worst moment and made some kind of positive impact," said Plews, known to many as Chief Rainbow.

The Upper McKenzie Rural Fire Chief got a call Monday night of a downed power line and brush fire. She immediately knew it wasn't good news considering the strong winds.

"When I walked out my front door with my pager and my radio responding to the call, I opened my door and looked back at my husband and I said, 'This is going to be my worst nightmare,'" she said.

She couldn’t have been more right. 

Chief Rainbow said she didn't know the extent but knew the fire was moving faster than anything she had seen in her 30 years of experience. Chief Rainbow and her team were the first firefighters to take on the raging Holiday Farm Fire in Lane County.

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"By the time we were able to safely engage with the power lines it had already grown beyond what we could take care of," Chief Rainbow said. "At that point, I quickly called for all the help I could find."

She also called for level 3 evacuations for the McKenzie River area. She knew they had to get people out quickly before people wouldn't be able to make it out. What she didn't know was that the fire would travel 20 miles, right into her own backyard.

"I found out from my friend and neighboring fire chief that my home was gone and that nothing was left and quite frankly I was a hot mess for quite a while," she said.

DONATE: GoFundMe for Chief Rainbow

Credit: Christiana Rainbow Plews
Upper McKenzie Rural Fire Chief Christiana Rainbow Plews, also known as Chief Rainbow, lost her home to the Holiday Farm Fire while she was out battling the blaze. She found a fledgling grebe, a diving duck-type water bird, flopping around on the ground near her rig. She didn't stop until she caught the little bird and placed him back safely in the river.

Chief Rainbow and a dozen of her district volunteer firefighters had their homes burn to the ground while they were out trying to save lives and property, but that didn't stop them. They continued to battle the blaze.

"I couldn't disengage for a while physically," she said. "We needed to continue to fight that fire and all of my folks needed to keep fighting that fire, because we had no other resources."

Her fire station in Blue River was also lost to the flames along with all the equipment.

"There are moments that I'm strong and coherent and there are moments when I am completely lost," said Chief Rainbow.

Her courage, dedication and sacrifices are not going unnoticed. The community is coming together to help. Wren Arrington started a GoFundMe page to help his friend and her family.

"This is a horrible catastrophic event but the human spirit that is being shown right now with the kindness and the support is exactly what all of us need," said Chief Rainbow.

A week of devastating loss for her followed by inspiring support. 

"I am so proud of the fire service today," she said. "I’m so proud of what we’ve done. everything is burning down in Oregon and we still have people willing to come here and fight our fire."