North Dakota firefighters recap first week battling Oregon blaze

Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 12:33 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Last week, 17 firefighters from four North Dakota departments made the trip to Oregon to help in the battle against the raging wildfires.

Volunteers from Williston, Fargo, Grand Forks, and Minot fire departments are assigned to the Slater fire, which has burned more than 150,000 acres and is only 24% contained.

The crew has been there less than a week, but has already saved historical sites and relieved other crews.

Visibility was cut down to a quarter of a mile as North Dakota crews drove into Oregon.

“You were in smoke from just over in Montana all the way down here to Oregon,” said Jason Catrambone, Williston Fire Chief. Once at their site, tents were pitched and firefighters were sent out on assignment.

“When we wake up in the morning we never know what we’re going to be doing for the day, and even after we get assigned something, that can change from hour to hour,” said Dane Carley, Battalion Chief for the Fargo Fire Department.

On Monday, the crew was walking the outer edge of the fire putting out hot spots and containing the spread. In a Facebook post, North Dakota crews we’re thanked for their efforts to protect the Oregon Caves National Monument.

North Dakota Firefighters battle blaze in Oregon.
North Dakota Firefighters battle blaze in Oregon.(Slater and Devil Fires Information)

“It needed clearing out of flammable materials from the base building, cleaning off the roof and then the crews set up a sprinkler system,” said Catrambone. Videos show the 17-man crew from all four cities coming together for one cause.

“They came together right as it was needed and that was day one getting down here. Everything from setting up our tents to getting out in the line. Everyone is just itching to do more,” said Catrambone.

And although they are thousands of miles away from home, they feel the backing of their home towns.

“There’s a lot of support out there and we really appreciate that. We do really appreciate the support. It feels good to know people are paying attention and trying to follow our story,” said Carley.

The firefighters are expected to return to their home towns the first week of October. The six-man crew from the North Dakota Forest Service is working at the Holiday Farm Fire, which is 200 miles to the north.

They are also working on the edge of the fire, building containment lines.

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