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Local firefighters battling top priority Substation Fire

The Lebanon Fire District said losing crews to other fires can put a strain on the department.

Posted: Jul 19, 2018 7:40 PM
Updated: Jul 19, 2018 7:50 PM

LEBANON, Ore. -- The Substation Fire is now being called the top priority fire in the country and teams from Lane and Linn counties are helping fight the wildfire. 

The fire is burning near the Dalles, and it's being investigated as arson. One person, 64-year-old John Ruby, was killed while trying to protect his neighbor's property. It has burned more than 50,000 acres in priceless grass and wheat fields.

The Lebanon Fire District said losing crews to other fires can put a strain on the department. Several of Lebanon firefighters are members of the Linn County Strike Team, which left for the wildfire Wednesday afternoon. 

That team is made up of firefighters and type one engines from Lebanon, Albany, Scio and Sweet Home. With them gone, Batt. Chief Fitzwater said they'll have crews in Lebanon working longer shifts for local calls.

"We'll have guys working up to 48 hours and sometimes up to 60, depending if we can get the back fill we need while they're absent," Fitzwater said. "So it does have an impact on us."

Even though this is the first team they've sent out this summer, this is something they prepare for every year. 

"Last year ... We sent crews down to California. We had crews gone up to two weeks at a time ... it could be a long time we'll be without those crews, so we have to back fill so we can protect our district in their absence," Fitzwater said. 

A Lane County Task Force left to join the Linn County Strike Team early Thursday afternoon. That team includes firefighters from Eugene Springfield Fire, Lane Fire Authority, Pleasant Hill-Goshen Fire, South Lane County Fire, Mohawk Valley Fire and Douglas County Fire District #2.

The force is led by Coburg Fire Chief Chad Minter.

"They called and asked how quick we can get on the road, so we're trying to get out in the hour," Minter said earlier Thursday afternoon. 

They'll be joining several teams from across the state already there.

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