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KFD linemen battle wildfires

Of the Keizertimes

Tim Coburn had been asleep at the Keizer Fire Department for about an hour when he heard a knock on the door just after midnight on Saturday, Aug. 18.

More than 200 miles away, a 9,000-acre wildfire was burning outside of Condon.

Governor Kate Brown had declared the fire a conflagration, allowing the fire marshal to mobilize resources from around the state.

Coburn, one of 10 firemen on a Marion County Task Force, was one of those resources.

He and fellow Keizer fireman Sean Cummings had to be in Woodburn by 2:30 a.m. to meet with firemen from Marion County, Jefferson, Stayton, and Sublimity.  They were to be in Condon by 6.

“We were one of the first to get there and the last task force to leave,” Coburn said. “When we first got there it was so fresh that, they had the fairgrounds in Condon situated but they didn’t really have a lot of resources yet.”

By Monday, the Stubblefield Fire had burned more than 30,000 acres and continued to grow to more than 56,000 acres.

Between Aug. 18 and 24, the Marion County Task Force worked 12-hour day shifts, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“The whole time we were there we were busy,” Coburn said. “We were doing something.”

Working alongside the Bureau of Land Management and state fire marshall, Coburn and Cummings in their Keizer brush truck put out fires, trimmed Juniper trees and helped local farmers with bulldozing.

“Those guys are incredibly talented, the farmers,” Coburn said. “A lot of the times that’s (bulldozing) how they stopped the fire. They got it pretty well contained.”

Coburn and Cummings also went to Lonerock, protecting a ranchers’s home in case the fire spread.

“We did a lot of work around his farm and around his house, getting debris away, sprinklers out,” Coburn said. “We surveyed his property so if it did happen then we would know where to go.”

The Stubblefield Fire was the third conflagration Keizer firefighters reported to this summer.

Danny South and Aaron Rowland spent July 18-21 at the Substation Fire near The Dalles. Aaron Pittis, Ryan Russell, Jacob Brinlee and Tyler Bullock then reported to Northern California Aug. 1-3 for the Mendocino Complex Fire.

“It’s a totally different way of thinking from being a structural firefighter to being a wild land firefighter,” Coburn said. “You adjust pretty quickly. Structural, you think of as going in and putting it out real quick, wildland, they use different techniques, including burning out different areas as a tactic.”

Keizer has 18 firemen on its conflagration list. The Stubblefield Fire was Coburn’s second wildfire after reporting to the Eagle Creek Fire last summer.