Fire Camp Goes Up in Oregon

It's an instant city, a makeshift fire camp with power lines, an open-air office complex, a sea of tents and nearly 2,000 temporary residents.

They work 12-hour shifts, eat, maybe play a game of cards, go to bed, and then do it all over again.

"It's a big campout," Ryan Miller, 18, on the second fire of his career, said Thursday. "It feels good — like you're needed."

This is the base camp and command post for about 1,900 firefighters and support personnel who are working on a 6,000-acre fire just north of the California border — one of several burning across the West.

School buses carrying fire crews, pickups and semitrailers compete for space. During shift changes it's "chaos, but pretty organized chaos," said Malcolm Hiatt, support branch director.

The fire was sparked last week, and within a day consumed hundreds of acres of tinder-dry forest land on steep slopes in rugged, hard-to-reach terrain.

The Oregon Department of Forestry chose Cantrall-Buckley Park, along the banks of the Applegate River, for the camp. Supplies and fire crews soon began arriving, turning the park into a village.