As Oregon crews battle California wildfires, families await their return for the holidays

Families of firefighters cope with loved ones being away for the holidays while they help battle California wildfires. (Photo courtesy the Minter Family)

COBURG, Ore. -- Fire crews across Oregon have been sent down to Southern California to aid firefighting efforts.

That means many are left at home worrying for their loved one's safety as they fight these fires, and wondering if they'll be home for the holidays.

Christmas lights are glowing inside the Coburg Rural Fire District station, but the department's fire chief has not been there since December 5.

Now, his wife is just hoping he's home for Christmas.

Firefighting has always been a part of the lives of Mischelle Minter and her husband, Chad, Coburg Rural Fire District Chief.

But more than a week ago, Mischelle would receive a call from her husband that was uncommon this time of year.

"He told me he had twenty minutes to leave," said Mischelle.

She had a brief opportunity to say goodbye to her husband as he was being sent down to Southern California to help fight the Thomas Fire.

"We've had a little bit of contact via text and phone," said Mischelle. "I'm grateful to get phone calls because you never know and just to hear his voice."

In their nearly twenty years of marriage, Chad fighting fires throughout the state is normal.

"I'm used to it in the summer," said Mischelle, "but like I said, I'm not used to him leaving the state this late in the year."

But Mischelle remains positive and shares uplifting words to other families of firefighters.

"We're sacrificing our loved ones to fight fires, but look at what those people may be losing," she says. "So, if you can just think about it like that, everybody can get through it."

Mischelle said she's not sure when her husband will return home, and prepares for the thought of him not being with the family for Christmas.

"We haven't gotten there yet, so It hasn't hit us yet," said Mischelle. "But, it will soon."

For now, she's hopeful he will be home for the holidays - in time for their first grandchild's first Christmas.

"I'm hoping they send him back in time," said Mischelle, "but they keep getting re-routed to different fires in California. So, I don't know if that's going to happen."

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