Knox County firefighters travel to West Coast to battle wildfires

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — As firefighters continue to battle fires on the West Coast, local first responders have traveled there to help out.

Firefighters, Jeremiah Mcleod and Brad Rettig flew into Portland, Oregon, just days ago. Once they arrived, the thick smoke forcing them to drive nearly 250 miles to the Oregon-California state line where their help is needed most.

“We’re working a shift that runs from 6 in the afternoon to 6 the next morning. But then you have to count in travel time, which where we are makes for about a 16 hour day,” Rettig said.

Both say their daily routines is sleep, fight wildfires, shower, and repeat.

Mcleod and Rettig both from Knox County say they are part of a Structural Protection Unit which is responsible for protecting and/or saving homes in areas affected by the fires.

Their goal is to prevent fires from igniting in areas they should not be in. They patrol miles of cut fire lines and most of that is done while traveling on foot. Mcleod tells us it’s about 10 miles per day.

There is some hope on the horizon, Mcleod and Rettig said.

They say the situation on the ground, at least where they are, is getting better. Rettig says when they arrived the fires were only about 5% contained, and as of Friday, those fires are about 20% contained.

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