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A look inside the Milepost 97 Fire camp

More than one thousand firefighters rotate through the Milepost 97 Fire camp.

Posted: Aug 1, 2019 2:37 AM
Updated: Aug 1, 2019 12:20 PM

MYRTLE CREEK, Ore. -- Almost 1500 firefighters are battling the Milepost 97 Fire. They rotate through a camp in Myrtle Creek, off of Pruner road. 

The heart of the Milepost 97 Fire camp is called the incident command post. Department chiefs meet in the area multiple times a day and it's where big decisions are made. The cost of battling the Milepost 97 Fire is currently at $5.8 million. 

Firefighters rotate through three shifts. One starts at six in the morning, another starts at six in the evening and a swing shift starts in the afternoon. Fire officials said the camp is like a city. 

The camp has its own traffic system. Firefighters can find meals, supplies, a place to shower and a place to sleep at the camp. More importantly, officials said the camp can adjust to the size of the fire. 

"We're just as good as expanding up as we are at shrinking right back down to nothing," said Al DeVos, a public information officer for the Oregon Department of Forestry. "We can right size the fire and have people out of here in a day or two and this field will just look like it just has a footprint on it. But no sign that we had a fire camp here."

Firefighters even have a place to get their laundry cleaned. The laundry trailers have a total of 20 washers and dryers. Firefighters can drop their clothes off, pick up a ticket and come back for their fresh uniforms in less than 12 hours. 

The Fire Cache, run by the Oregon Department of Forestry, is responsible for keeping track and ordering all of the equipment needed on the fire line. Members of the Fire Cache said they can go through 20,000 to 30,000 AA batteries during a fire. Those batteries are used to power radios. 

The supply unit also has about 16 miles or more of hose. The Fire Cache also carries other supplies, such as uniforms, fire shelters and large pools that can be filled with water. 

Members of the Fire Cache said they're extremely proud to be a part of the firefighter family. 

"Folks are giving up summers to come out here," said Supply Unit Leader Eulus Newton. "It's just unbelievable. How can you not support them?"

Firefighters can check out equipment from the Fire Cache when they need it. The equipment is returned after the fire is put out. Most of the supplies are shipped out of Redmond. 

When these firefighters return to camp after being on the fire line, one of the first places many crew members head to is the cafeteria. Firefighters expend about 6,000 calories each day. The cafeteria has to prepare three meals a day for each firefighter that add up to that 6,000 calories. 

The cafeteria is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That way, people working all three shifts will have something to eat. Members of the food unit said firefighters leave the cafeteria with a full stomach. 

For example, one dinner meal included a pulled pork sandwich, macaroni salad, mac and cheese, baked beans, coleslaw, watermelon and a lemon bar for dessert. The camp also goes through about ten palettes of water each day. Food unit members said they strive to make the cafeteria a place of comfort. 

"Our job is to boost morale when they come in off the line," Food Unit Leader Nick Stumpf said. "There are a lot of times when I see guys, they hit the hand wash station and they're almost running to get to the food line. They're just so excited because this is the highlight of their day. Otherwise, they're just working and sleeping and showering. So, we're the morale boosters of the fire."

About 70 inmates from across the state actually prepare and serve the food at the fire camp. They're monitored by nine staff members. 

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