JOSEPHINE COUNTY, Ore. – The Rum Creek Fire has presented unique challenges for firefighters.
On Monday, river guides spent 28 hours transporting one hotshot crew by raft to get to the nearest lodge.
“Finally approached us, ‘Hey we have a hotshot crew that wants to connect some dozer line down the river and we’ll need to raft them out,’” Northwest Rafting operations manager Michael Hughes said.
Two local rafting companies got the call of a lifetime on Monday, when they were asked to help out a team from California.
The group of 19 firefighters got aboard rafts and headed about an hour down the Rogue River to Black Bar Lodge.
All their equipment came with them down river including four chainsaws, shovels, personal gear and much more.
“They were able to unload their gear, then reload that on the boats,” Arrowhead River Adventures owner Kyle Drake said. “It took as about an hour to rig, get everything ready, get them outfitted in life jackets.”
Because of the rough terrain, landing a helicopter was not possible, resulting in two rafting companies being called to help.
Arrowhead River Adventures and Northwest Rafting, who are both contracted through the bureau of land management, say they were more than happy to help the firefighters.
“It’s cool to be part of the operation, even in just this minor little way,” Drake said. “Even though we’re not putting out the fire, we’re not responding to anything.”
“We get to use our skill set of the river and knowledge of the area, how to get people in and out,” Hughes said. “While it’s a small piece, it was helpful for them.”
Hughes said this was the first time since 2013 that the company has helped firefighters raft down river.
It was also a first for several of the hotshots, who are used to attacking fires from the air.
“They’re like awesome, we get to go rafting,” he said. “One of them was like this is better than riding in a helicopter. This is so fun. In their full get up, getting splashed and having fun.
According to Hughes, they’ve been told to be prepared to possibly transport more firefighters, if the fire continues to grow.