CAVE JUNCTION, Ore. — As fires still rage, local and regional emergency crews work to protect structures and lives on a daily basis, and one Fargo firefighter describes the 14 to 16-hour days as challenging but familiar due to his training.

Dane Carley — one of four Fargo firefighters stationed in Oregon — said while fighting the wildfire is about the same as any regular fire, every day is different.

Emergency crews are battling at least 11 wildfires that have burned almost a million acres in the state.

During the last five days, Fargo firefighters have fought wildfires on the west coast as part of the North Dakota’s volunteer task force assembled after sourcing and coordination through the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services (DES). Emergency response crews from across the state traveled to Oregon after Governor Doug Burgum approved an Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) request Monday, Sept. 14.

According to a press release from North Dakota's governor's office, this emergency response mechanism allows North Dakota to send a total 12 firefighters including its task force leader Jason Catrambone of the Williston Fire Department. Crews from Fargo, Grand Forks and Williston are all apart of this task force sent to help.

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Dane Carley — one of four Fargo firefighters stationed in Oregon — said while fighting the wildfire is about the same as any regular fire, every day is different.

"It's not a whole lot different in that sense, the unpredictability, but it's just a different place where we're doing kinda the same thing," Carley said.

Carley said their day usually starts around 5:15 a.m., and after breakfast, crews meet with North Dakota's task force chief to learn their assignment for the day. During the past few days, North Dakota crews have built protective structures including portable sprinkler systems around Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve. Crews completed these structures Sunday, Sept. 20, and now are sent to different divisions depending on a wildfire's path.

Fargo firefighters plan protective structures to build around vital buildings and natural landscapes.  Photo courtesy of the Fargo Fire Department
Fargo firefighters plan protective structures to build around vital buildings and natural landscapes. Photo courtesy of the Fargo Fire Department

"That's what hard about it, you really don't know what you're doing day-by-day," Carley said.

Although there's a lot of challenges to face, Carley said firefighters like him are familiar with the uncertainty emergencies bring.

"I think firefighters kind of thrive on that. I think that's why a lot of us get into the work because even at home when we're on our normal shift duty, it's not a whole lot different because when the (emergency) tones drop, for a call, we drop whatever it is we're doing and we go on that call," Carley explained.

And Carley emphasized camaraderie built during these types of missions.

"One of my favorite things about this type of assignment has always been the camaraderie, you spend 24/7 with the same group and you get to be really good friends," Carley said. "You get to know each other well, and that's one of the best parts of this type of work."'

At the Fargo firefighters' base camp, shirts hang on a makeshift clothesline. Photo courtesy of the Fargo Fire Department
At the Fargo firefighters' base camp, shirts hang on a makeshift clothesline. Photo courtesy of the Fargo Fire Department

Besides North Dakota crews, seven Minnesota fire departments — including Bemidji, Fergus Falls, Fisher, Eden Prairie, Motley, Cross Lake and Spring Lake Park Blaine Moundsview Fire — also have sent volunteers to fight Oregon wildfires and protect structures.

In fact, last week on Tuesday, Sept. 15 in Fergus Falls, 29 brave volunteers learned to use a possibly life-saving tool: compact emergency shelters that unfold from a small belt.

Practicing with plastic demo models, one of the trainers told them using one in a fire would not be painless, saying "It's not a get out of jail free card, it is a torture chamber, but that is better than dying."

Emergency crews are expected to return to their community's fire stations during the first week of October.

Watch Carley's full interview below.