Hood River Co. Fairground home to firefighters battling Eagle Cr - KPTV - FOX 12

Hood River Co. Fairground home to firefighters battling Eagle Creek Fire

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It was once an empty field at the Hood River County Fairground, but now it’s home for at least 600 firefighters. 

They essentially created a pop-up town, where they hopefully catch at least six hours of sleep before they fight the Eagle Creek Fire – some working 40-hour shifts in steep terrain and thick smoke to protect our beloved Columbia River Gorge. 

"Just an incredible city, logistics is working overtime to get this set up," said firefighter Dean Schulze. 

Firefighter Jonah Lang said, "There’s nothing like a disaster to bring communities together and to bring support in.” 

There were 12, 14 or 20 hour shifts for some firefighters, while for others it can be 36 to 40 hours somewhere. 

Schulze was born and raised in Oregon 

“We just drove for miles and miles and just saw a lot of fire, more than we expected. It's kind of overwhelming,” he said. 

He knows what the Gorge means for so many. 

“Some people start crying when you’re talking to them," Schulze said. “This one is just of epic proportions. It’s so much bigger and further down the Gorge. That’s kind of hard to see.”

After coming face to face with flames, he worries Portland’s beautiful backyard will never look the same.

“You’ll see the whole hillside is entirely blackened by that area right there," he said. 

He had this message for Oregonians tonight. 

“Hold strong, stay close to each other, and hang together, I think they’re doing really, really well.  As we stop at some of the homes the fire is really close to, I think just our presence for some of them is comforting,” Schulze said. 

For now, the crews have each other away from their families, but they find a way to celebrate the small stuff – singing “Happy Birthday” to a fellow firefighter. 

These crews could be out here for weeks, and all of them understand what the Gorge means to people. They also want to thank everyone for all the ‘thank you’ signs, the water, donations and support.

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