SALEM, OR (KPTV) – Local crews who battled wildfires in northern California returned to Salem on Saturday.
The Marion County Strike Team spent two weeks fighting two different fires and now, they’re happy to be home.
In an effort to aid northern California’s fight against those aggressive wildfires, Marion County sent a team down to assist.
They were only supposed to be there a week, but then another fire started, so they stayed another week.
Now after battling those fires head-on, they finally had a chance to return home.
Saturday was the day firefighter families in Marion County had been waiting for. Some had kids, while others, an empty nest – but the reunion would be just as sweet.
As the families gathered, the diversity showed. Woodburn, Mount Angel, Silverton, Drake Crossing and Jefferson fire all sent resources towards two very active fires in northern California.
“It really tells how giving Oregonians are, ‘cause all of these people were willing to give up their time to go down there,” said Julie Brown. “I’m very proud of him… very, very proud of him,”
Two weeks and hundreds of miles later, they’re home. And this time, the mud on their trucks is California dirt in Oregon territory.
“It doesn’t matter that we don’t know one another. We trust in the fact that we have similar training, the same qualifications, we can do the kind of work that they’re asking us to do in a very timely manner,” said strike team leader Lt. Jon Koenig.
Volunteer firefighter Paul Brown said, “You know we got a great group of guys and they’re willing to help others in time of need, because they were short on resources and we had a lot of resources down there from everywhere.”
The fires were intense.
“There were some times that we had airdrops right above us and we got some great photos of that… maybe 30 feet away and 40 feet up,” Brown said.
As they packed up, ready to go back to their respective departments, there was no need for reflection, as it was already done.
“That sense of pride doesn’t necessarily come when we hit home, it comes when we’re leaving those incidents and knowing that those citizens are returning to their home because of the work that we did,” said Koenig.
Somewhere in northern California, at least one family will return to their still standing home, with no idea the firefighters who saved it were from Marion County, Oregon.
Brown, who works for Portland General Electric full-time, ended up taking all his vacation time – two weeks worth – just to go down and fight these fires. When he came back, he said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
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