Update: Clallam County Fire Chief Ben Andrews said they received word Volunteer firefighters Lt. Mike McAneny, Becca Yucha and Danielle Hebert who were on structural protection around Omak near the Okanogan Complex fires, are traveling home today, Sept. 2.
by MATTHEW NASH
Even more Sequim-based firefighters have joined the fight in Eastern Washington and Oregon.
In the past week, four firefighters traveled to various fires for medical relief or to combat fires.
Firefighter Neil Borggard left on Aug. 30 to join fellow firefighters Len Horst (engine boss), Austen Delgado and Ivan Heuter on the Brush 34 truck at the Stickpin fire, part of the Kettle Complex fires near Curlew.
The Stickpin fires are estimated to engulf 53,469 acres of the 73,962 acre total of the Kettle Complex fires. They are at 17 percent containment as of Tuesday.
Ron Whitney, Doug Morrill and Anthony Jason left on Aug. 27 to serve as emergency medical professionals at the Grizzly Bear Complex fires, 20 miles southeast of Dayton.
These fires have burned 74,471 acres and are 17 percent contained, too.
Fire Chief Ben Andrews with Clallam County Fire District 3 said firefighters still in the field renewed their contracts to remain on duty at least another week.
“No one is coming home anytime soon,” he said.
Typically, firefighters go to a scene for 14 days but must make a special request for more time, Andrews said, but they must take two days’ rest after 21 days on.
Volunteer firefighters Lt. Mike McAneny, engine boss, Becca Yucha and Danielle Hebert remain on structural protection around Omak near the Okanogan Complex fires, Washington’s largest wildfire in state history. They’ll remain on Sequim’s Engine 38. They traveled with Engine 12 from the Port Angeles Fire Department and firefighters from that department and Clallam County Fire District 2.
The Okanogan fires are now 40 percent contained but have burned 144,179 acres.
Firefighter Brian Ouelette remains a fire line medic at the Marble Valley Fire, 10 miles south of Colville. He’s been there since Aug. 18.
Firefighter Bryan Swanberg continues to serve as a medical unit leader at the Grizzly Bear Complex fire. He’s been stationed to three different fires and has been at this set of fires since Aug. 20.
Three other team members, James Brown, Darrell Sharp and John Riley, served significant time at eastern fires, too. Brown most recently served as a medical unit leader with the Washington Incident Management Team 1 at the Kettle Complex fires.
Andrews returned to the area last Saturday after nearly a week training as an incident commander at the Kettle Complex fires starting on Aug. 25.
In his training, Andrews said his team helped build a work plan to combat the fires each day from early morning until late evening while communicating with local firefighters and the community.
They also helped the command team transition to an incoming national team, he said.
“It was the first time I ever experienced anything like that,” Andrews said. “I saw a lot of big things I never would have seen if I never left Sequim.”
While wet and cooler conditions have helped firefighters in some areas, Andrews said the drought-like conditions from earlier this year have pushed the fire season to late October.
Following local firefighters’ and medics’ return, Andrews plans to hold a press conference in the coming weeks with those who went to discuss what they did and saw at the scenes.
“I thought it’d be interesting to do a panel to discuss the benefits of what we’re bringing back to the area,” he said.