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Local Hotshots Return From Alaska

REDMOND, OR-- Hundreds of Oregon firefighters are in Alaska, as wildfires burn millions of acres in that state. For several weeks, Oregon crews have been supporting firefighting efforts in Alaska. "They’re currently at Preparedness Level 5, which is their most complex situation that they have up there," says Carol Connolly, with teh Northwest Coordination Center, "They have a lot of fire on the ground and they need more resources coming in."

She tells KBND News 11 Interagency Hotshot crews from Oregon are in Alaska, due to the difficult terrain. "Prineville Interagency Hotshot crew is up in Alaska. They were mobilized on June 15th. Their last day of work up there is scheduled for July 7th, so it’s likely they’ll be traveling home July 8th. The Redmond Interagency Hotshot crew is up there as well, with the same mobilization date and that same return date." Five teams are on their way home from Alaska, to be replaced by five new Type 2 Interagency crews.

In total, our state has more than a thousand firefighters and support personnel up there, including incident managers. Connolly says those resources are not yet needed here, "We had a slow start to the season, which we love. Human-caused fires are making up most of those fires that we do have, so far. But, the large catastrophic fires that we saw last spring, we haven’t had those yet." And, she doesn't expect it to stay quiet in Oregon, "Everything west of the Cascades is going to remain pretty low-key for a while and, as we go into July-August that will change. East of the Cascades, we’re still looking at some pretty extreme areas and it won’t take much to dry out. Once some of that tall grass and the green cure out, there’s opportunity - if there’s an ignition source - for those large, catastrophic fires."

Crews are wrapping up work on a 40,000-acre grassfire in Eastern Oregon. The Willow Creek Fire, outside Vale, is now about 90% contained. 

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