BLAZING FORESTS

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Thomas Hendrix (left) and Bobby Wolsey, both 20-year-old McNary High School graduates, recently returned home for a break after a summer spent fighting fires around Oregon. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Thomas Hendrix (left) and Bobby Wolsey, both 20-year-old McNary High School graduates, recently returned home for a break after a summer spent fighting fires around Oregon. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By LYNDON A. ZAITZ
Of the Keizertimes

Booby and Tommy are glad to be home a short spell if only to catch up on their sleep.

Booby and Tommy are the nicknames given to Keizerties Bobby Wolsey and Thomas Hendrix by their forest fire fighting brethern. With days beginning at 4:30 a.m. and going sometimes until past 10 p.m., sleep is at a premium when you are a member of a forest fire fighting crew.

Hendrix and Wolsey, both 20 and McNary High School graduates, started fighting forest fires in Oregon earlier this summer; they attained the well-paying jobs through a Wolsey family member who is a crew chief for Woodpecker Firefighting of Hubbard.

This summer Hendrix and Wolsey have fought fires in the Ochoca Mountains near Prineville, one in Sisters and the Government Flat Complex fire near The Dalles. But fighting fires is a misnomer: they don’t fight fires as much as protect lives and property, both private and public.

“On the Dalles fire we saved 39 homes altogether,” said Wolsey.

The two didn’t just start fighting wild fires. They both had to go through an intensive training regimen which included 40 hours of classroom study.

During their training they learned the lingo of the trade, how to use their tools and fire behavior. They were schooled in weather conditions, especially how wind affects a fire. They were trained in the skills of the front: how to dig a hand line, how to watch for flare-ups and how to be safe.

“It’s all about the safety of the fire crew,” said Hendrix.  If a fire gets out of control the firefighters are instructed to drop everything and run, which they had to do while fighting the Government Flats Complex fire near The Dalles.


To read the complete article and other news from around the Keizer area, pick up a copy of the September 6 print edition of Keizertimes, available at stores all around the area. To subscribe to the print edition for just $25 a year, click on the ‘Subscribe Today’ link at the top of the page, call 503-390-1051 or visit our office at 142 Chemawa Road North in Keizer.

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