Philomath Fire & Rescue Chief Tom Miller along with firefighters Lindsay Taylor and Kyler Crocker left Friday for California to assist with the devastating wildfire that destroyed the town of Paradise and has been sweeping across Butte County.
“We were notified last night that the state of California was sending out a request to Oregon for 15 strike teams to come help,” Miller said Friday afternoon while en route to California in Engine 232. “We’re headed to Chico to the Camp Fire.”
Specifically, the Philomath trio has a request to report by 8 p.m. Friday to the Silver Dollar Fair Ground near Chico, a trip of more than seven hours at 435 miles.
The Office of the State Fire Marshal activated the emergency mobilization plan to send those 15 strike teams with equipment and personnel to the Camp Fire. Besides Benton, other counties sending teams include Rouge Valley, Klamath, Douglas, Lane, Marion, Linn, Lincoln, Polk, Washington, Multnomah, Clatsop, Columbia, Clackamas and Yamhill.
“Once again, our neighbors in California are in need of support, and even though Oregon had a very long fire season, our Oregon Fire Service has stepped up humbly to help the state of California,” State Fire Marshal Jim Walker said in a news release.
California made the request through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a national state-to-state mutual aid system.
Firefighters from neighboring agencies such as Corvallis are also sending resources.
“Basically, we’re what is called a Type 3 strike team and what we do initially most of the time is structural protection,” Miller said when asked what he anticipates his crew will do upon arrival.
Thousands of Paradise residents fled for their lives as the wildfire ripped through their community, located about 90 miles north of Sacramento. The Butte County Sheriff’s Office reported Friday that five people were killed in Paradise, their bodies found in vehicles that were overcome by the flames.
The total number of fatalities is not immediately known with the fire still active and many hazards remaining in the hardest-hit areas.
According to media reports, as of Friday morning, nearly 110 square miles had been burned and at least 2,000 structures destroyed and thousands more threatened. More than 50,000 people were evacuated across the region.
This is the first time since last year that Philomath Fire & Rescue has sent a crew to California. Firefighters and equipment have gone on assignments in southern Oregon in recent months.