Bothell firefighters alongside their Oregon counterparts while deployed to the Eagle Creek fire last month. Courtesy of Mike Groff

Bothell firefighters lend a hand across the state and across state lines

While local first responders’ jobs focus on their local communities, there are times when they reach out beyond their city limits to help those in other parts of the state or country.

At the Bothell Fire Department, a number of firefighters have spent this last summer deployed to different parts of Oregon to help with the wildfires in that state.

Firefighters Mike Groff, Cody Barwell, Derek Jones and Jeffery Salatino recently returned from a deployment at the Eagle Creek wildfire, just southeast of Portland, Oregon.

Groff said they were sent down on a special emergency contract due to Oregon being in a state of emergency and out of resources. The Bothell firefighters left early morning Sept. 9 and returned home Sept. 13.

While down there, they worked structure protection, Groff said. This meant they were patrolling sensitive areas and while it was not the most challenging job, they were protecting valuable infrastructure in the area.

“They were super appreciative,” Groff said about the locals.

The fire in question ran 16 miles in four hours, shutting down Interstate 84 and trains that run through that area. Groff added that the 30-mile-long fire also jumped the Columbia River and started burning on the Washington side.

He said that part of Oregon was hit financially by the fire as the closure of I-84 meant people could not get to a number of tourist destinations such as local waterfalls.

In addition to the Eagle Creek fire, Barwell, along with BFD Lt. Jim Vandertoorn and Lt. Mark Peffer were deployed to the Chetco Bar fire in southwest Oregon earlier this summer.

BFD public information officer Kirsten Clemens said firefighter Mark Notaras is still currently deployed in Chetco Bar.

And while these firefighters have been deployed on behalf of the department, Clemens said firefighter Kelly Melton has been down in Houston helping with the response to Hurricane Harvey.

For Groff, who has been with BFD since 1999, this is not his first wildfire. He said there are 14 people in the department who make up its wild land team, which requires an additional certification as fighting a wildfire is different from fighting fires in a city.

While a big part of the wild land training is about being able to help other parts of the state or country that may not have the resources to fight a large wildfire, Groff said there are parts of Bothell where woods or undeveloped areas meet structures. They also come across a lot of grass and brush fires on this side of the Cascade mountains, he said. So the team does use its wild land training locally.

Groff said since before July 4, members of the wild land team have been deployed to various parts of Washington and Oregon.

“It’s been a busy summer for sure,” he said, adding that his most recent deployment to the Eagle Creek fire was his fourth of the summer.

The Eagle Creek fire in Oregon has hit the state financially as it shut down I-84 and people were not able to get to popular tourist destinations in the area. Courtesy of Mike Groff

The Eagle Creek fire ran 16 miles in four hours and jumped the Columbia River and started burning on the Washington side of the river as well. Courtesy of Mike Groff

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