Philomath Fire & Rescue in California

Philomath Fire & Rescue personnel spray fire retardant in an area where a fire was advancing over a hill during its time in California Dec. 5-20. The six members of the crew and two wildland engines returned to the station safely Wednesday afternoon.

TOM MILLER, PROVIDED

Philomath Fire & Rescue's six firefighters returned home with any incidents after two weeks in California as part of a joint strike team to battle wildfires.

Philomath personnel responding included Fire Chief Tom Miller, Lt. Bryan Crocker and firefighters Paula Anderson, Michael Bowman, Brandon Leavitt and Kyler Crocker. Nobody was injured.

The firefighters, which left Philomath Dec. 5, were first assigned to the Creek Fire near Sylmar. After a couple of days there, they moved on to the Lilac Fire in San Diego County near Escondido. Then they headed up to the largest, the Thomas Fire, near Ventura.

Among the assignments for Philomath's crew were mopping up and protecting homes outside Ojai, and cutting a fire line and spraying fire retardant in the Montecito area to help battle a blaze that was advancing over a hill.

As part of the strike team, Philomath Fire & Rescue sent two Type 3 wildland engines.

"We were one of the few departments that sent two fire trucks, so I'm pretty proud of that," Miller said.

The return trip to Oregon was lengthy. A California law prohibited the fire department to drive for more than 10 hours. The crew made it to Redding and spent the night. The next day, they had to drive through a snow-covered pass in the Mt. Shasta-Weed vicinity as well as snow on the Oregon side of the border.

All 15 Oregon State Fire Marshal strike teams have returned to their home stations. The deployment was part of an Oregon-California mutual aid agreement, which calls for each state to send crews to the other when the need arises.

“We are extremely pleased with the performance of our strike teams,” said State Fire Marshal Jim Walker. “Our teams have played an important role in helping our neighbors to the south and all of Oregon can be proud of the professionalism and effectiveness of our resources while dealing with these difficult fires.”

Philomath also deployed firefighters and equipment to California in October.

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