Columbus County forrester battling wildfires in Oregon

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY/AP) — Wildfires are continuing to rage in several states out West and a number of North Carolina Forest Service firefighters are on the front lines battling the blazes.

Shane Hardy a forrester for the N.C. Forest Service’s District 8 region which encompasses New Hanover, Brunswick, Pender, Duplin, Columbus and Bladen counties.

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For the last 20 days, Hardy has been working to battle wildfires in Oregon. This week, he’s working at the Warm Springs Indian Reservation located in north-central Oregon.

When WWAY caught up with him early Tuesday morning, he was working the night operation.

“We have a national qualification system as well as a national ordering system,” he said.

As fire resources are needed, officials in affected areas submit orders into the system which are then filled with available fire personnel across the country.

Hardy says the fire he was assisting with on Monday covered about 120,000 acres.

“Just north and south of me right now we’re doing a burning operation, so about 12 to 15 feet of fire will be put on the ground before morning,” Hardy said.

When they’re not fighting fire, they’re roughing it.

“A hotel would be nice, we’re staying in the woods, some people stay in tents, some sleep in their trucks or under their trucks,” he said. “We’re used to it, its what we do.”

One good thing about where they are out West is that the humidity is not high like it typically is during late summer in the Cape Fear.

Despite the extremely long days and massive natural and property devastation Hardy and his colleagues have witnessed, he says morale is actually very strong.

“I am surrounded by great people,” he said. “They’re professionals, they know how to do their job and bring a very positive attitude with them.”

Hardy plans to fly out Saturday to return home but could be going back to assist with more wildfires next Wednesday.

According to the Associated Press, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has requested a Presidential Disaster Declaration for the ongoing wildfires in the state.

Brown made the request Monday, saying it would bring much needed resources to Oregon’s response and recovery efforts.

“Oregon is strong. Oregon is resilient. But to fight fires of this scale, we need all the help we can get,” Brown said in a news release.

The request includes additional communications resources, damage assessment teams, search and rescue support, debris management, as well as shelter and medical assistance. Individual assistance for the counties and tribes was also included in the request.

A federal emergency declaration was granted for the state last week.