Vale turns school into fire camp

VALE, Oregon -- Hundreds of firefighters from all over the country are currently in Eastern Oregon, battling fires that have scorched thousands of acres. That many people doing that kind of work requires a lot of resources.

So, how does a relatively small town do it? They get creative with space.

The fire crews battling the 22,700 acre Kitten Complex burning in Eastern Oregon have a big job. They're trying to control four separate fires burning in hot, dry, and rugged desert.

RELATED:Oregon fire burning, but nearing containment

Leona Rodreick is a Public Information Officer with the Northern Rockies Incident Management Team.

"Our firefighters, they're working inherently dangerous jobs," she said. "We've had a couple of firefighters who have been transported to the hospital and released, for heat-related illnesses."

The fires aren't threatening any homes, but they are threatening wildlife habitat and ranchers' livelihoods.

"We are working to protect sage grouse habitat, and to see what we can do to help protect the forage for ranchers and permitees that have cattle out in those areas," said Rodreick.

The other big job is taking care of all the firefighters.

"As of this morning, we had 822 firefighters," said Rodreick. "We have firefighters from 29 states, coast to coast."

They're all staying in and around a town of only 1800, Vale, Oregon. But, how can you get all those firefighters what they need, when they need it? Apparently, you turn Vale Elementary School into a fire camp. And Sunday, they were even giving tours.

The camp includes everything you'd need to put out a massive complex of fires. There is communication equipment in the cafeteria, supplies in the parking lot, tents on the football field, and a medical facility in a classroom.

Thanks to all their hard work, and creative use of space, they're making a difference.

"We're actually making really good progress on the fire," said Rodreick.

In fact, the Kitten Complex is now 60 percent contained. They hope to have it fully contained by the middle of next week.

On Sunday, crews were digging more fire lines. They believe they should be able to keep it from growing any more, significantly.


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