Fort Smith area firefighters left Wednesday (Sept. 16) to lend their help fighting wildfires in Oregon. A crew of 20 firefighters, including five employees of the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Division, left Fort Smith to work wildfires in the Pacific Northwest.
Wildfires in California, Oregon, and Washington have burned more than 2 million acres this year, causing hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate their homes.
The White House approved Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s request for a major disaster declaration Wednesday. The state requested public assistance for 24 counties – virtually all of western Oregon, as well as parts of central and eastern Oregon – in its disaster declaration request, as well as individual assistance for eight of the hardest-hit counties.
In addition to the five employees of the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Division, the crew, named the “Razorback Crew,” includes eight employees from the U.S. Forest Service, two from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, two from the National Parks Service, and three from of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The crew chief is Les Miller, a Forestry Division ranger from Conway County.
The team will work as an initial attack crew, which means they will be sent to prevent new starts to wildfires, a news release said. The non-federal crew members were contracted by the U.S. Forest Service to work in Oregon. The U.S. Forest Service will direct the crew to areas in Oregon most in need, the release said.
“We are proud of the Razorback Crew members who volunteered to do hard, labor-intensive work to help safeguard the people of Oregon,” said Arkansas State Forester Joe Fox. “Our employees are honored to use their training and expertise to provide assistance.”
Two other Arkansas Department of Agriculture Forestry Division employees worked on fires in California recently and have returned.