More than 300 Oregon firefighters return home after fighting SoCal wildfires

Lane County Strike Team in California. (Photo Courtesy: Chad Minter)

COTTAGE GROVE, Ore. - Fifteen Oregon strike teams came home today after battling Southern California wildfires for 15 days.

This afternoon we caught up with 17 firefighters as they returned home.

They compared the experience of fighting a California wildfire and how it differs from fires here in Oregon.

"To see it upfront, it was definitely a very surreal experience for us," Lane Fire Authority John Maxwell said. "Nobody has ever seen fire behavior like that."

Siuslaw Valley firefighter Kyle Orozco said it moved fast, it was explosive and the flames were hundreds of feet high.

Lane County firefighters are bringing back unforgettable memories after a grueling 15-day trip fighting fires in Southern California.

"It was very surreal to be honest with you," Orozco said. "It's not everyday you're fighting fires listening to Christmas carols."

Crews said battling flames in December was an adjustment.

Working around the clock to protect homes in 80 degree weather wasn't easy.

"It takes a physical toll on you quite a bit," Maxwell said. "The work itself is very grueling."

Plus crews said fighting fires in their home state of Oregon is usually a lot more slow and not nearly as volatile.

Compared to our neighbors in the south.

"Down in Southern California, the fires burn more of a grass, brush mixture," Orozco said." They were wind driven and have very explosive potential."

Firefighters said they will never forget battling the flames with their brothers.

"That fatality that was suffered down there shows that it is just that dangerous," Orozco said.

While remembering who was lost.

Lane County firefighters are happy to be home.

Just in time for Christmas.

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