PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – A local crew returned to the Portland metro area after two weeks of fighting the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon. The fire has grown to 408,930 acres on Sunday and is now 46 percent contained.
Fox 12 spoke with the battalion chief about their dangerous but extremely important work.
"Picture you get a phone call that says, pack up all your wildland gear, pack to go camping for up to two weeks, and by the way, you're gonna be working nights. So, the minute you get there we're gonna work you for 18 hours," Battalion Chief Jason Kelly said. "But with that said, you'll have the opportunity to really help a community in need. So everyone stood up and said 'that's for me' and we got up and got on the road as fast as we could."
With that, Kelly and the rest of the Multnomah County Task Force drove south for the Bootleg Fire and the second boots hit the ground.
"We were everywhere," Kelly said. "This was the most dynamic wildland deployment I've ever been on. We were working with dozer crews. We were protecting and prepping structures."
With bone dry conditions, hot temperatures and unpredictable flames —the game plan changed often.
"Oftentimes, we received orders that were revised an hour later because of the widespread growth of the fire," he said.
The task force, made up of crew members from Portland, Gresham and Corbett, spent a lot of the time creating containment lines.
"They would take a forest service road and basically clear all the brush all the trees and create 50 to 70 ft wide roads to clear the fuel and create a gap," Kelly said.
But, the fire had other plans before it gave some relief.
"First the first 10 days, that fire blew through every single containment line," he said. "A break in the weather helped."
There's a long way to go in this firefight. In the meantime, Kelly has a message for all of us:
"If you're camping this summer, enjoy yourself, but you cannot have a campfire. There is too much to risk, we have a beautiful state and we need to do our part to preserve the beauty of that state," he said.