Firefighters thank community for support: 'It just gives us more ambition'

Firefighters at the High Pass Fire camp are keeping morale up while they work to contain the 200 acre blaze. (SBG photo)

JUNCTION CITY, Ore. – Forestry experts said they gained ground on the High Pass fire burning outside Junction City Friday night.

The fire is still only 10 percent contained, but the Oregon Department of Forestry said it’s no longer spreading thanks to the cooler temperatures and less wind.

However, crews continue to fight the fire and maintain good spirits while they camp nearby.

At fire camp, Malcolm Hiatt is in charge of the logistics.

“The firefighters work typically anywhere from 12 to 16 hours on the line and when they get back to camp they want to be taken care of so that they can get their rest so the next day they can be physically fit and mentally fit to go out and do their jobs,” said Hiatt, logistics chief for the Oregon Department of Forestry.

That means each firefighter needs a tent, water, and food totaling 6,000 calories a day.

Beyond the ODF camp, the Junction City community is also helping.

“I really appreciate that and I really appreciate the people doing that. It just gives us hope and faith and it just gives us more ambition,” said David Ojeda, a firefighter.

One example is a nearby church giving firefighters who work the night shift a place to sleep during the day.

Even as conditions calm down, officials said they’ll stay until the job is done.

“As long as we need to be here to take care of this fire and get it first to containment and then to control,” said Dave Wells from the Oregon Department of Forestry.

They keep one goal in mind on and off the fire line.

“Everybody just comes out safe. At the end of the day that's all we care about,” Ojeda said.

The fire camp can hold up to 1,200 firefighters. But officials said now that things are calming down, it probably won’t exceed 500.

There’s no timeline for when the fire might be completely controlled.

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