>La Grande Observer | Union and Wallowa Counties' News Leader

La Grande, OR forecast
& Eastern Oregon University Valley Cam

Observer news NE Oregon Classifieds Web
web powered by Web Search Powered by Google

Follow LaGrandeObserver.com

Today's front page

Image of The Observer's Front Page

Get Home Delivery of The Observer for only $8.50 per month, $9.50 for motor routes. Just click here and after filling out one simple and secure online form you could be on your way to learning more information about local, state and world news.

manage your account »

Recent article comments

Powered by Disqus

Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow GRAYBACK CREWS STAY PUT


Grayback crews fighting the Hayman fire are returning to their stations in Oregon today. Only one crew remained in Colorado this morning.

Leslie Hebetler, a spokeswoman for Grayback, said that all other crews are being demobilized and are not available for other national wildfires. During fire season, Grayback hires as many as 450 firefighters and support personnel.

Twenty large fires were burning in nine states this morning, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Active large fires were reported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada and New Mexico.

Hebetler said she does not know when Grayback crews will again be mobilized, whether it will be weeks or months.

"We hope they'll be available (later)," Hebetler said. "We're not sending anyone out until they're emotionally ready."

Five Grayback firefighters were killed Friday afternoon when a van driven by Megan Helm, 21, of La Grande rolled about four times on Interstate 70 west of Denver. The latest victim is Bartholomew Bailey, 20, of Baker City who died Monday.

The crew of about 60 was driving from La Grande to the Hayman Fire south of Denver when the accident occurred near the small town of Parachute, Colo.

Earlier reports said the crew had stopped in Salt Lake City for the night, but Hebetler said she does not know exactly when or where they stopped. Grayback crews "take a six-hour break every so often," she said.

The crews stopped in Twin Falls, Idaho, she said, and maybe one more time. The

company is investigating, she said.

Grayback does not require drivers to have commercial driving licenses, unlike the Forest Service, which requires

commercial licensing for its drivers that transport groups of firefighters.

Helm, who was licensed to drive in Oregon, does not have a commercial driver's license, according to David House of the State Division of Motor Vehicles.

The State of Oregon requires that drivers of vehicles transporting 16 or more people have a commercial license.

"That's why so many vans are built for 15 passengers," House said.

Drivers of Forest Service vans must stop and rest after four hours behind the wheel, said La Grande District Ranger Kurt Wiedenmann.

"Rest does not mean sitting in the passenger seat. It means rest," he said Monday.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Grayback has a

good record with the Forest Service.

The more than 50 firefighters who were flown back to Northeast Oregon Saturday were to gather in La Grande this morning for a service and counseling session.

"We wanted to bring the families together," Hebetler said. "They need that."

— Alice Perry Linker

blog comments powered by Disqus
Local / Sports / Business / State / National / Obituaries / Public Notices
Editorials / Letters / Guest Columns / Columnists
Outdoors / Ag / Spiritual / Go Magazine / Portraits
View all classifieds / Jobs / Autos / Real Estate / Rentals / Place an Ad
The Observer
About / Contact / Commercial Printing / Subscriptions / Terms of Use / Site Map
Also Online
Photo Reprints / Slideshows / Weather and Valley Cam / /index.php?option=com_rss&feed=RSS2.0&no_html=1">RSS Feed ?> RSS Feed

Follow La Grande Observer headlines on Follow La Grande Observer headlines on Twitter

© Copyright 2001 - 2014 Western Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. By Using this site you agree to our Terms of Use

LaGrandeObserver.com works best with the latest versions of Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer or Apple Safari