Helping fight one blaze at a time
One local firefighter just returned home from helping fight fires in Alaska.
Peter Osipovich, a Fire Engine Operator for the Rogue Siskiyou National Forest, grew up in Cave Junction and went to high school there as well. He currently lives in Grants Pass.
"We got ordered up as a single resource to help the state of Alaska and staff some of their engines during their high fire danger level ratings," said Osipovich.
In June a request came in, asking for firefighters to help battle the wildfires in Alaska. Every firefighter has a card that specifies what jobs they could do. When the fire season in our region is slow as it is now, it will show firefighters as available in the system. They may get called out to anywhere in the country. When traveling, the receiving agency who is in need of assistance will pay for the traveling expenses.
"When our firefighters went up to Alaska, they were helping the state of Alaska and our resources are federal and that happens all the time," said Virginia Gibbons, Public Affairs Officer for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. "We need each other. The federal wildland firefighters need the state firefighters, it's very much a cooperative working relationship between the state and federal agencies."
Osipovich helped with three different fires while in Alaska: Swan Lake Fire, MLK Fire, and Montana Creek Fire. As help was needed in another fire, Osipovich was pulled from the original fire he was based at.
"They look for certain overhead positions that can help boost their resources and staff equipment," said Osipovich.
Each fire was different but when helping with Swan Lake Fire, Osipvoich helped with supporting burn out operations and securing the edge along the main highway.
"They may originally end up on one fire, but Alaska might shuffle them around once they're up there because the priorities change on all the fires constantly, and so they move the resources accordingly," said Gibbons.
Osipovich has helped in a variety of different fires through the years and adds, this is the reason he does this job.
"I always think it's important we got across borders and share," said Osipovich.