Utah Task Force One looking for victims and survivors of Oregon’s wildfires

Sep 15, 2020, 10:33 AM
utah task force one wildfires misinformation...
This photo taken by Talent, Ore., resident Kevin Jantzer shows the destruction of his hometown as wildfires ravaged the central Oregon town near Medford late Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. (Kevin Jantzer via AP)
(Kevin Jantzer via AP)

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — A Utah based search and rescue team, Utah Task Force One, is performing important work in Oregon: sifting through the debris of burned out buildings to look for survivors and victims of wildfires. 

Wade Russell, with the Salt Lake Urban Search and Rescue, or Utah Task Force One, said 80 personnel left from West Valley City on Saturday morning to head to Medford, Oregon, most of them from the Salt Lake area.  

“We have four K-9 teams that are with us, so that’s four dogs and four handlers. We also have two physicians from local emergency rooms and two structural engineers that are private individuals that work with us,” Russell stated.

Not the only teams from Utah

Wade Mathews, public information officer for Utah Division of Emergency Management, said the Urban Search and Rescue Task Force One is a federal designation. 

“Earlier in August they actually were sent to the Gulf Coast to help with the hurricane response there, but they were turned around halfway as they were no longer needed,” Mathews said. 

“But, with our EMAC deployments, we also name those groups task forces as well.  So, we have two deployments out right now — the first deployment consists of Task Force One and Task Force Two in California and the other has Task Forces Three and Four in Oregon,” Mathews said.

EMAC stands for “Emergency Management Assistance Compact.” It allows governors to request help from neighboring states during any kind of disaster or state of emergency. 

Shortly after arriving in California for that state’s wildfires, the government re-deployed Utah Task Force One to Oregon after a second EMAC request came from Oregon’s governor.

So, Task Force One, Three and Four are all Utah firefighters working to put out the massive fires in Oregon which have killed at least 10 people, displaced tens of thousands of others and burned nearly a million acres in seven days.

Utah Task Force One: a different job

Russell said his Utah Task Force One has the job of looking for survivors and victims of the wildfires. 

“We’re doing structural evaluations, we have a survey that we go through,” Russell said. “We see if those structures are completely damaged before we send the dogs out.”

“Up to this point, it looks like the evacuations in the areas that we are working have been very successful. So even though we’re doing a lot of work we have not encountered any any survivors, or victims, that we’ve had to pull out of any rubble,”  Russell continued.

PHOENIX, OR – SEPTEMBER 10: In this aerial view from a drone, homes destroyed by fire are shown on September 10, 2020 in Phoenix, Oregon. Hundreds of homes in the town have been lost due to wildfire. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Russell doesn’t know if any of the other search and rescue teams have found anyone.  He said they mostly work in their own assigned areas. And it’s very long hours, said Russell.

“We’re ready and start working at 8:00 a.m. and we come off of the work area at seven o’clock at night.  But the team is up as early as about 5:15 in the morning so we can start our briefings,” Russell said. 

Mathews agrees it’s hard work, but said it’s important.

“Utah is glad to be able to help these other states out and in their time of serious need, as we’ve seen with the the destruction that’s taking place.  So, the Emergency Management Assistance Conpact (EMAC) is a great way to do that,” Mathews said.


A pair of Resource Advisors from the Coconino National Forest record data in Division Alpha as they...
Haley Brink, CNN meteorologist

Millions in the Southwest could see ‘dangerous and dire’ weather take shape, weather service says

Hot and windy weather conditions in the Southwest could create dangerous fire conditions.
4 months ago
A wind-driven wildfire burns at the edge of U.S. 89 on the outskirts of Flagstaff, Ariz., on Tuesda...
The Associated Press

Southwest wildfires force evacuations, tighten resources

An Arizona wildfire more than tripled in size on Wednesday as winds pushed flames through a neighborhood near Flagstaff.
4 months ago
wildfire warning sign...
Lindsay Aerts

Wildfire conditions could come early, worrying fire officials

The Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands said the snowpack could dry out early and cause wildfire conditions to start earlier than usual.
4 months ago
FILE: A fire restriction sign sits along the road in Rush Valley as a wildfire burns on Victory Mou...
Simone Seikaly

2021 Utah fire season: hundreds fewer human-caused fires than in 2020

Despite significant drought conditions, Utah's 2021 fire season contained bright spots including fewer human-caused and fast containment on most new starts.
7 months ago
Snow covers the burned remains of a car after wildfires ravaged the area Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in S...
The Associated Press

2 missing; survivors count blessings after Colorado fire

Survivors from the Colorado wildfire count their blessings.
8 months ago
A lone flame flickers as smoke roils from the remains of a home destroyed by a pair of wildfires, S...
The Associated Press

Official: Nearly 1K homes destroyed in Colorado wildfire

Officials in Colorado say 1,000 homes were destroyed, and hundreds more were damaged following a wildfire this week.
8 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Prescription opioid...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.

Tax Tuesday: Key Information Before the Filing Deadline

Businesses can receive a credit of up to $5,000 per employee in 2020 and up to $21,000 per employee in 2021.
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Utah Task Force One looking for victims and survivors of Oregon’s wildfires