WILDFIRE

Utah Task Force One looking for victims and survivors of Oregon’s wildfires

Sep 15, 2020, 10:33 AM
utah task force one wildfires misinformation...
This photo taken by Talent, Ore., resident Kevin Jantzer shows the destruction of his hometown as wildfires ravaged the central Oregon town near Medford late Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. (Kevin Jantzer via AP)
(Kevin Jantzer via AP)

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — A Utah based search and rescue team, Utah Task Force One, is performing important work in Oregon: sifting through the debris of burned out buildings to look for survivors and victims of wildfires. 

Wade Russell, with the Salt Lake Urban Search and Rescue, or Utah Task Force One, said 80 personnel left from West Valley City on Saturday morning to head to Medford, Oregon, most of them from the Salt Lake area.  

“We have four K-9 teams that are with us, so that’s four dogs and four handlers. We also have two physicians from local emergency rooms and two structural engineers that are private individuals that work with us,” Russell stated.

Not the only teams from Utah

Wade Mathews, public information officer for Utah Division of Emergency Management, said the Urban Search and Rescue Task Force One is a federal designation. 

“Earlier in August they actually were sent to the Gulf Coast to help with the hurricane response there, but they were turned around halfway as they were no longer needed,” Mathews said. 

“But, with our EMAC deployments, we also name those groups task forces as well.  So, we have two deployments out right now — the first deployment consists of Task Force One and Task Force Two in California and the other has Task Forces Three and Four in Oregon,” Mathews said.

EMAC stands for “Emergency Management Assistance Compact.” It allows governors to request help from neighboring states during any kind of disaster or state of emergency. 

Shortly after arriving in California for that state’s wildfires, the government re-deployed Utah Task Force One to Oregon after a second EMAC request came from Oregon’s governor.

So, Task Force One, Three and Four are all Utah firefighters working to put out the massive fires in Oregon which have killed at least 10 people, displaced tens of thousands of others and burned nearly a million acres in seven days.

Utah Task Force One: a different job

Russell said his Utah Task Force One has the job of looking for survivors and victims of the wildfires. 

“We’re doing structural evaluations, we have a survey that we go through,” Russell said. “We see if those structures are completely damaged before we send the dogs out.”

“Up to this point, it looks like the evacuations in the areas that we are working have been very successful. So even though we’re doing a lot of work we have not encountered any any survivors, or victims, that we’ve had to pull out of any rubble,”  Russell continued.

PHOENIX, OR – SEPTEMBER 10: In this aerial view from a drone, homes destroyed by fire are shown on September 10, 2020 in Phoenix, Oregon. Hundreds of homes in the town have been lost due to wildfire. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Russell doesn’t know if any of the other search and rescue teams have found anyone.  He said they mostly work in their own assigned areas. And it’s very long hours, said Russell.

“We’re ready and start working at 8:00 a.m. and we come off of the work area at seven o’clock at night.  But the team is up as early as about 5:15 in the morning so we can start our briefings,” Russell said. 

Mathews agrees it’s hard work, but said it’s important.

“Utah is glad to be able to help these other states out and in their time of serious need, as we’ve seen with the the destruction that’s taking place.  So, the Emergency Management Assistance Conpact (EMAC) is a great way to do that,” Mathews said.

Today’s Top Stories

Wildfire

Utah Fire Info says the Deuel Creek Fire is now 100% contained. Photo Credit: Utah Fire Info....
Devin Oldroyd

Deuel Creek Fire is now 100% contained, Utah Fire Info says

Utah Fire Info says the Deuel Creek Fire is now 100% contained after days of firefighters combating the blaze.
1 day ago
Smoke is visible behind an airplane...
Devin Oldroyd

Grass fire near Salt Lake City International Airport causes road closure

A grass fire started near Salt Lake City International Airport Wednesday morning.
1 day ago
Deuel Creek fire burns in the nighttime...
Samantha Herrera

Deuel Creek Fire continues to burn, officials hopeful for more containment

As of Tuesday morning, the Deuel Creek Fire was 10% contained and affected 129 acres near Centerville, Utah. Officials continue to work to contain it.
2 days ago
The Deuel Creek Fire started on the hillside above Centerville late Sunday night....
Devin Oldroyd

Deuel Creek Fire starts in Centerville overnight, evacuation order lifted

The Deuel Creek Fire began late Sunday night in Centerville.
3 days ago
Fireworks light up the night sky over Liberty Park Thursday July 24, 2003 Photo by Scott G Winterto...
Mark Jackson

Fireworks and some open flames are now banned in Park City

Just before the holiday weekend, Park City has banned fireworks and non-permitted open flames due to extreme drought conditions and fire risk.
6 days ago
A father and son shop for fireworks in Herriman, Utah...
Samantha Herrera

Tooele fire prompts reminder about firework safety

Illegal fireworks started a fire in Tooele, Utah Tuesday night. Officials reminded Utahns to light fireworks safely and legally this holiday weekend.
8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Utah Task Force One looking for victims and survivors of Oregon’s wildfires