JOSEPH, Ore. - Oregon National Guard members assisted firefighters battling the Double Creek Fire by staffing road closure points around the fire’s perimeter.
The fire in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in northeast Oregon was started by a lightning strike and has burned 157,000 acres. It is considered a megafire by the U.S. Forest Service.
Oregon National Guard members have been at the fire since Sept. 10. The Guard recently switched out some personnel with fresh service members to provide safety and security. The roadblocks protect residents and firefighters.
“The National Guard is the last resource called in to come in and help – so we come in, we help with these TAPs (traffic assistance points), where we’re out there trying to keep everybody safe,” said Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Decker, who’s volunteered since the Rum Creek Fire in Josephine County.
Wallowa County is a very rural area that draws many people to its natural beauty and outdoor activities.
“It’s that time of the season, and you know they want to do their hunt, and they got their tags, and they want to fill them,” said Decker. “We understand that, but it’s not safe for them, and it’s not safe for the fire crews either.”
Oregon National Guard Maj. Joshua Reese, the officer in charge of the National Guard group, is an IT specialist who works at the Salem Hospital for his civilian job.
“As a Citizen-Soldier, it’s an honor to serve my fellow Oregonians and help keep people safe,” Reese said. “I’m really proud of our group, some of these Soldiers and Airmen have been on State Active Duty [orders] for over 28 days working these closure points.”
The Oregon National Guard has a history of helping fight wildland fires, with several firefighting crews trained to fight fires if called on to support civilian firefighters.