Fire Crews Are Battling More Than Fire

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NEAR GLENDALE, Ore. — Firefighters battling the Douglas Complex are battling more than fire, they are also coming across poison oak out in the forests.

Poison oak is one of the biggest medical issues firefighters out on the line are facing. The medical tent says they see more than 100 firefighters coming in a day with poison oak.

“The thing we have to do right now is encourage them to wash their hands,” paramedic John Guenther said. “I know they itch but that oil gets on your fingers and then it spreads somewhere else on your body and plus sweat and bodily oils cause it to move as well.”

The camp has gallon bottles of Techno, a soap used to treat poison oak, lining their showers. Firefighters can also get a smaller bottle at the medical tent. The camp is also working to get Cortisone shots and other medicine used to treat poison oak at the camp for the firefighters.

“They need it, they don’t want to leave the lines they love what they do and they really want to help out,” Guenther explained. “We want to help them out so the best way is to get those pills and shots in camp here.”

Medical personnel say there is nothing firefighters can do to avoid the poison oak.

“It’s just waist high and we have to get trails through it so they can save people’s houses and stop this fire so there’s no real choice other than to go through,” Guenther said.

A poison oak rash starts in the crevices of skin and then spreads through contact. Medics say most of the firefighters are treating their rash at camp and then returning to the fireline instead of taking a break and recovering for a couple of days.

“It’s up to the individual when they’ve had enough, they’ll go get the shot but most of them have poison oak over a good percentage of their body and then when the clothes are rubbing on it during the day it makes it hard for them to do their work,” Logistics Chief Malcom Hiatt said.

“This is a lot of guys main income for the year and that’s the thing, they are willing to push themselves to near deathly extremes to get out there and do this work, so to tell them no is almost heartbreaking,” Guenther added.

A portable laundry facility is expected to arrive at Glendale High School Tuesday night.


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  1. Jamie Smith says:

    Just FYI…I believe the product is called Tecnu, not Techno. The SPRAY ON version of Benadryl also will help with poison oak, as it creates a spray on layer, almost like a liquid band aid, and helps the itching as well as helps the oils from spreading as much as it would by rubbing a cream treatment on. This is what a friend of mine suggested using when he worked with Greyback on the Oak Flats Fire a couple years ago.

  2. Karen Thompson says:

    God Bless them for being here and trying there best to stop the fires and save homes. Poison oak is bad enough for anyone to get, but these guys have it much worse. Also, not save to be around poison oak that may be burning….that can be very hazardous to anyone who has a severe allergy to it. I pray we get some rain this week…that will surely help.

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