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Native American Fire Crews Extend Helping Hand To Other Tribes, Agencies


It’s been a busy season for firefighters, and that includes those affiliated with the nine federally-recognized tribes in Oregon. 

The Bureau of Indian Affairs estimates about 1 out of every 5 firefighters are Native American. Many sign up for this grueling, seasonal job because it pays well and is steady work. Another reason is to help other tribes protect their ancestral lands and assets, like timber. 

Jeff Casey is the fire management officer for the Umatilla Agency of the BIA near Pendleton. He told KLCC they’ve shared crews, engines, and other resources across the region. 

“I was able to send an engine with two tribal firefighters down to the Navajo Nation earlier this year," said Casey.  "And right now I’ve got two individuals from Navajo, that are up here, helping us! It’s just trading resources back and forth, sometimes quite a distance, but y’know, it’s helping each other out.”  

Casey added for the first time since 1977, the Umatilla Agency has been able to provide a 20-person hand crew for other incidents. 

Copyright 2021, KLCC. 

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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