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Eugene firm scrambles to keep up with demand for wildland firefighting gear

CrewBoss employs 140 people to sew fire-resistant attire for the USDA Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and state forestry departments in Oregon, California and elsewhere. Their contract with CalFire calls for over 60,000 garments this year alone. (SBG)

EUGENE, Ore. - You see them on TV and in photographs from wildfires everywhere, from the forests of the Pacific Northwest to the hills of southern California.

And one of the key suppliers of those fire-resistant yellow shirts and green pants - the functional fashion of wildland firefighters - is right here in Eugene on Wilson Street, off W. 11th Avenue.

CrewBoss employs 140 people to sew fire-resistant attire for the USDA Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and state forestry departments in Oregon, California and elsewhere.

Their contract with CalFire calls for over 60,000 garments this year alone.

And business has heated up along with the fire season.

"The amount of volume, we've experienced unprecedented growth," CrewBoss sales director Ryan Davidson said.

But it isn't just about business.

It's about the safety of the men and women battling wildfires across the U.S.

"One would think, hey that's great for your business," Davidson said, "but we work in a different environment where we obviously look at our customers and go: Wow. We're in this fight with you."

CrewBoss is part of the same firm also known as Western Shelter Systems, which also employs 140 people.

"We have probably thousands of shelters across the West Coast at fire camps at the moment," said Dylan Garrett, business development manger at Western Shelter Systems.

The company makes sturdy, yurt-like structures made from aluminum and fire-resistant materials.

"It's been a massive increase that we have seen here in the last year or so," Garrett said of demand for their product.

The company wants to expand its workforce to 160, but has had trouble finding qualified applicants amidst the red-hot economy and low unemployment.

The buildings can be set up as field headquarters, medical tents - even shower facilities.


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