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Firefighter returns after battling multiple blazes

0827-firemen

As a forestry student, Chance Fillmer of Andalusia said Monday he never imagined having the opportunity to become a firefighter.

But he did.

In fact, he is one of 25 firefighters who returned Friday after multiple massive wildfires in Washington and Oregon.

Fillmer, a forestry technician with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and based on the Conecuh National Forest, is a 10-year employee.

He was part of the Alabama Multi-Agency 1 Crew of federal employees dispatched in July to the Green Ridge Fire in Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest, Milepost 10 Fire near Malaga, Wash., and Conrad Lake Fire south of Naches, Wash.

Above: USDAFS firefighter Chance Fillmer of Andalusia stands on an Oregon mountaintop. Top: Firefighters build a fire line.

Above: USDAFS firefighter Chance Fillmer of Andalusia stands on an Oregon mountaintop. Top: Firefighters build a fire line.

“It was a wonderful experience,” Fillmer said. “It was a good crew, and we got to help the people in Oregon and Washington. It’s a work that I enjoy – being a firefighter.

When I came to work with the Forestry Service, I was given the opportunity,” he said. “It looked interesting, like it would be fun. And it is.”

On the mission, Fillmer served as a “squad boss,” which meant he served under a “crew boss” and was in charge of a five-to-six-man crew.

It was the first time since 2008, the USDAFS office in Montgomery dispatched a crew of federal employees representing the USDA Forest Service, National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group (NMAC) increased the national fire Preparedness Level (PL) to its highest point, PL-5. A significant amount of wildfire activity, both large fires and initial attacks, is currently occurring in several parts of the western U.S. and wildfire suppression assets (firefighters, aircraft, and equipment) are fully engaged. The last time that the National Preparedness Level was raised to 5 was July 1, 2008.

Which means there could be more travel in Fillmer’s future.

“And I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I love what I do.”

When he’s not fighting fires, Fillmer works as a forestry technician on the Conecuh. He and his wife, Susan, have two children – 16-year-old Chase and 14-year-old Calli.