Chiloquin fire chief thankful for hard work by mostly volunteer crews
CHILOQUIN, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Touring the destruction left by the Two Four Two Fire, I saw total loss and complete heartbreak, but also much gratitude for the town's hard-working firefighters -- mostly volunteers -- who helped save hundreds of other homes.
Chiloquin Fire and Rescue Chief Mike Cook took me around Monday to see the damage from what he said was the most intense wildfire he’s seen in his entire career.
As we made our way through town, one thing I noticed was how Cook acted as much more than just a fire chief.
He was a friend lending a hand to a community that had just been devastated. He was also very proud of his crew for stepping up in the darkest of times.
The mostly volunteer based department and hundreds called in to help were able to save almost all of the over 1,500 homes threatened, as just eight were destroyed.
Many of those volunteers were busy protecting others homes while theirs' also were threatened.
Cook took me to meet Bob and Kori Crutcher on our tour. The Crutchers live just down the road from where structures were destroyed. The couple loaded up their horses and evacuated, coming back to a house thankfully still standing.
The couple showed me just how close the fire came to their home, pointing to a big black burn mark in their backyard.
“The fire started coming up through here and obviously burned the grass there, burned the grass here, it burned this -- and it kept pinging at our walls,” Bob Crutcher said.
Kori Crutcher said fire crews went to great lengths to keep their house standing.
“One of my friends went by in a horse trailer that helped us save our horse, and she says she saw a firefighters up on our front porch, fighting the fire," she said, pausing with emotion. "It’s hard not to cry, because I’m so grateful.”
At the end of our tour, Cook explained to me that the fire affects people more than most of us would think.
“You know, the human factor is the one part that we have to all remember," he said. "We had people that had lost items, or they weren’t sure where to go and didn’t have the items that they needed.”
He thanked his colleagues for working so hard, while trying to hold back tears.
“So I’m extremely -- I cant tell you how proud I am of the members of the Chiloquin Fire and Rescue Department," Cook said. "It’s a wonderful, wonderful group, outstanding group of women and men that all year long, they dedicate their time to train.
"They assist their community, they work on an ambulance, they work on a fire truck. They train all year long, they come out here during our community’s time of need and assist them. I had a lot of firefighters out that were out here 12 and 18 hours on the initial attack.”
As of Monday, the nearly 14,500-acre fire was 77% contained by the close to 400 personnel on hand. They expect, if all goes well, to contain the blaze fully by Friday.