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The Life of a Firefighter

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GLENDALE, Ore. — The Douglas Complex fire has been burning for 5 continuous days. Some firefighters on the scene have been there since day one, and others are just arriving.

Their morning begins with a morning briefing scheduled bright and early at 5:30 a.m. every morning. More than 300 people gather around a map in the courtyard of Glendale High School.  Crew chiefs and officials are in attendance, as the day is planned out. From there, the crew chief takes the information back to his firefighters.

Fire crews are divided into two shifts, a night shift and a day shift.   The day shift heads out at 7:00 a.m, while the night crews return to camp.

“I come to camp hungry and tired, but you earn your sleep and you earn your food,” said Oregon Department of Forestry firefighter, Skyler Hoefer.

The night crews unload their gear off of the trucks and head to the food truck, where a long line awaits.   Crews are served an unlimited amount of waffles, sausage, and eggs.  They do not talk much as stand at tables scarfing down their food.

“I’m getting a little tired… only getting four to five hours of sleep a day, it’s hard sleeping during the day, but you get used to it,” said Hoefer.

Fire crews work on the fire line between 12 to 16 hours a day.  They sleep in a tent city set up inside the emergency management camp at Glendale High School.  The night shift sleeps during the hottest part of the day.  According to firefighter Nolan McGinnis the experience is not pleasant.

“You have to chase shade and the tents get really hot,” said McGinnis.

Night crews try to set up their tents in nearby woods to stay cool.  Also, some are sleeping in cabins up the road. Firefighters could work 14 days before getting a day off, but firefighters who have been on the scene since day one say they’re used to the lifestyle now.

“I was kind of homesick… out of my comfort zone for the first couple of days, and now it’s just starting to get into a routine,” said McGinnis. “It’s just becoming natural.”