KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. --
The Kingsley Field Fire Department recently joined the effort to fight a wildland fire threating the local community, including homes of 173rd Fighter Wing Airmen, Sept. 7, 2022.
“My daughter and I witnessed a lightning strike and called 911,” said Staff Sgt. Amy Transue while standing on her back porch. “We watched it turn from a patch of smoke to visible flames.” Transue is a 173rd FW command post Airmen.
“Initially, Klamath Falls Fire District 1 arrived on-scene and established command and implemented the Incident Command System,” said Howard Owens, the Kingsley Field Fire Department Chief.
Shortly thereafter, Kingsley Field’s structural engine 3211 was dispatched to the fire just 13 miles from downtown Klamath Falls. Later named the Van Meter Fire, it quickly grew to 3,500 acres fueled by hot, dry conditions and strong winds.
Initially helicopters responded with water buckets, but the fire spread too rapidly to contain the fire, Transue explained while watching the response from her property.
Within a short period of time, she received an evacuation notice due to the proximity of the fire to her home.
“I looked over my shoulder at my house one more time, figuring it was the last time I would see it,” she said a deputy sheriff approached her saying it was urgent they immediately leave the area. “So, with tears rolling down my face my five-year-old and I got in the car and drove away.”
The Kingsley Field firefighters immediately began working to protect the buildings and livestock of the Holland Dairy, two properties from the Transue residence.
Capt. Vince Lombardo, Firefighter Matt Gray and Firefighter Rees Thomas spent 17 hours successfully defending the property with exception of one small out-building, helping ensure the fire didn’t spread to the other nearby homes.
Due to the rural nature of the county and the geographical separation from other counties fire resources, initial responders had to develop objectives with obtainable tactical priorities, explains Howard. Or, put another way, they did the best they could with limited resources.
Fire crews were able to save all but two nearly every home in the area. Two homes were destroyed, but the Transuse’s home was not one of them.
“I am so thankful for all of the fire crews, without them my house would have burned, and all of my neighbors houses as well,” she said. They were allowed back into their property within 48 hours.