In the community

Malheur teens return after wildfire deployment

Fire crew member Luke Andersen holds a map of the Williams Fork Fire in Colorado, where he was deployed. (The Enterprise/Aidan McGloin)

VALE – The last of 30 teenagers returned last week from supporting fire camps after two-week trips to wildfires in Colorado, Arizona and Wyoming.

The youth have been assisting firefighters with camp clean-up, inventory and tenting.

“I wanted to try something new, get off the farm, explore a little,” said Luke Andersen, a Vale High School junior.

He was deployed to the 12,000-acre Williams Fork Fire, in northern Colorado.

At night, Andersen could see the glow of the fire, five miles away, which was fueled by beetle-killed trees, and during the day he could see the sun appear red from the smoke.

They were surrounded by beautiful mountains and timber, said Tim McPheeters, Andersen’s crew boss.

For second-year crew member Daisy Estrada Garza, who worked the front door of the supply hut at the Granby camp, the job gave her both a way to travel and a sense of purpose.

Ryan Robinson joked that his deployment was a lot of hours with pay, but no sleep. He made friends from Kansas and Florida while working.

Crew boss Robin Robbins took her crew to Sisters after helping two camps fighting fires in Washington. She entered the program three years ago, after being recruited by her brother, and she was hooked after the first year. It’s a good stepping stone to becoming a firefighter, Robbins said.

The Vale crews have built a strong reputation among the fire teams, who appreciate their work ethic and their attitudes, said Tom Cuellar, BLM Snake River Valley crew coordinator.

“The strong work ethic is part of the tradition,” said Cuellar.

The camp crew program has existed for 16 years, and had 40 participants this year, said Cuellar. Each participant was grouped into a 10-person crew which stands on call for any fires they might need to go to. One crew was not deployed this summer, partly due to the late arrival of the fire season.

News tip? Contact reporter Aidan McGloin at [email protected] or at 541-473-3377.


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