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Veterans Trained to Fight Flames

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GLENDALE, Ore. — One group of firefighters is a unique unit for the Bureau of Land Management. Almost all are veterans of the war in Iraq or Afghanistan and are now trained to fight wildfires and do other forest work in the off-season.

With the fires now raging in Southern Oregon they’re being called to help light backfires to create a wide fire line so the wildfire will not be able to spread.

“It feels good to be part of something bigger than yourself and help out the community and local people,” air force veteran, Michael Tucker, said.

Tucker and his comrades have been on the Brimstone fire, cutting 15 miles of fire line and helping slow it’s spread.

“End of the day, you’re pretty wiped out,” Tucker added. “l end up climbing up and down hills and packing a 40 pound pack, and plus your tool and torch, so it’s long days.”

“They’re really go getters,” Jerry Serabia with the Bureau of Land Management said. “So putting in a lot of miles on the feet, 15 miles of line, so you can imagine walking on the side of a hill all day with a drip torch!”

Tucker says they usually sleep near their fire lines so they don’t have to waste time riding back to fire camp before going to bed.

For these guys it’s fighting fire with fire. These are the guys that set a lot of the back fires, trying to establish a wider fire line so the fire doesn’t get outside it’s boundaries. A total of 33 service members were hired under the program last year, and are with the Medford, Lakeview and Spokane BLM districts.