The Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon is the nation’s largest fire, as more than 2,000 firefighters try to contain the 410,000-acre blaze.
But they couldn’t make any progress at all without the help of some unsung heroes miles away in Redmond.
“I prefer to be behind the scenes and really the gratitude comes from the firefighters that we interact with when we chat with folks that use our gear,” said Tom O’Berry, the small engine mechanical superisor of the Northwest Fire Cache. “They generally say thank you, we started that pump right up when we went to use it and that makes us feel good.”
O’Berry has worked at the Northwest Fire Cashe in Redmond for 21 years.
It’s unseen work inspecting, cleaning, repairing fire equipment, to send back out to crews across the country on the front line.
“I feel complete, I feel like I did my best work here and it will show out in the field when fire personal are using our equipment,” he said.
Equipment like this chainsaw that was recently used to fight the Bootleg Fire.
“So, this would come through our return section, we would receive in the shop, take it, clean it, service and or repair and then test run, recertify it and move it to the next process to where it could go through the kit building room,” he said.
A national incident support cache operated by 60 people, working on an average on 1,800 pieces of equipment per fire season.
The work might be behind the scenes, but it certainly isn’t unnoticed.
“Nobody out on the ground could do their job without this cache. If this cache wasn’t here providing those supplies, everything else really wouldn’t matter,” said Jean Nelson-Dean, a spokeswoman for the Deschutes National Forest. “It’s kind of the foundation of everything we do. It’s the behind the scenes of firefighting, it’s really important and not everybody knows that it’s here.”
Hoses, tents, axes and saws – inspected by workers who might not be on the front lines, but certainly play a very important role.
“They work long hours; they do tremendous support to our firefighters and so it’s just again another part of the firefighting system and like they say it really does take a village to fight a fire,” she said.