Firefighters back from Medford: 'Fortunately nothing blew up on us'

GOSHEN, Ore. -- About two dozen firefighters from agencies across Lane County arrived home Wednesday morning after working the Deer Ridge Fire east of Medford, Ore.

On Monday, Governor Ted Kulongoski called for statewide help. A strike team with crews from Springfield, McKenzie, Lane, Coburg and Eugene fire departments responded.

For nearly two days, their job was to protect some of the 350 homes threatened by the blaze.

"It was extremely uneventful for us, which is very frustrating for the firefighters," said Capt. Jim England, Springfield Fire Department.

England was the strike team leader. He said once his crew arrived, Medford crews had already contained the fire.

"They primarily held us all day as insurance in case something did come up, so fortunately nothing blew up on us," said England.

Chad Minter, Lane County Fire Defense Chief, said it's important to know that when there is a fire out of Lane County, agencies will only send out crews that can be spared. Firefighters will not leave counties unprotected.

The following is an open letter of appreciation from Oregon's Red Incident Management Team to the residents of Medford and Ashland.

Dear Medford and Ashland Residents,

We want to thank you for your hospitality, patience, kindness, and acts of charity over the last several days.

Since Monday afternoon we have worked within your communities to continue the excellent work that Medford Fire Rescue, Ashland Fire and Rescue, Oregon Department of Forestry, mutual aid firefighters from Jackson, Josephine and Douglas counties, law enforcement officers and public works crews performed in the initial hours of the Deer Ridge and Siskiyou wild land fires. Monday night we were able to provide those initial attack crews with needed rest.

We are structural firefighters from cities and fire districts around Oregon who were sent here under a little-known Oregon law, the State Conflagration Act, which allows the State Fire Marshal to send firefighters from all over the state to help in a fire emergency that has overwhelmed and/or exhausted the local responders. In the case of these fires, state task forces and strike teams made up of firefighters from Benton, Deschutes, Marion, Lane, Linn, and Coos Counties responded, led by a team of trained fire officers from around the state.

When we arrived Monday we were impressed by what local residents and all of the firefighters accomplished before our arrival. The evidence of local firefighting skills lies in the 300+ homes in Medford and the approximately 250 homes in Jackson County Fire District 5 near Ashland that were protected and remain standing today.

We have enjoyed our 'visit' to your community. Please accept our deepest thanks for your kindness, cooperation and patience.

The following public agencies responded to this emergency:

Alsea Fire, Salem Fire, Turner Fire, Woodburn Fire, Willamette Valley Fire Authority, Stayton Fire Silverton Fire, Bend Fire, Hillsboro Fire, LaPine Fire, Black Butte Fire, Jefferson County Fire District 1, Rogue River Fire, Jacksonville Fire, Grants Pass Fire Rescue, Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal, Rural Metro Fire, Applegate Fire District 9, Oregon Department of Forestry, Brownsville Fire, Bandon Fire, North Bend Fire, Redmond Fire, Jackson County Fire District 4, Jackson County Fire District 5, Lake Creek Fire District, Eugene Fire & EMS, Coburg Fire District,Sweet Home Fire, Harrisburg Fire, Illinois Valley Fire, Albany Fire Department, Lebanon Fire,Medford Fire Rescue, Ashland Fire, Lane County Fire District 1, Springfield Fire & Rescue, McKenzie Rural Fire Protection District, Jackson County Fire District 3, Sutherlin Fire Douglas County Fire District 2, Corvallis Fire Philomath Fire

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