09.12.2020 – KINGSLEY FIELD, Ore. — Twelve Airmen from the 173rd Fighter Wing departed Kingsley Field on September 12, 2020, to support firefighting operations in Central Oregon. In the week building up to this activation, wildfires broke out along the U.S. West Coast, displacing more than 40,000 in Oregon alone, with up to 500,000 on “high alert”.
PHOENIX, Ore. — When not in uniform, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Patrick Rose wears brand new clothes. “None of these were mine a week ago,” he observed. But this 173rd Fighter Wing Equal Opportunity Airman isn’t living a life of extravagant consumption. Rose lost all of his belongings in an Oregon wildfire that burnt his home, his neighbor’s homes, and a significant portion of the rest of his town, to the ground.
So Rose’s clothes were provided to him from other Airmen at the wing.
On September 7, 2020, historic winds wreaked destruction across the state of Oregon, knocking down power lines and fanning small fires into large, destructive conflagrations.
“We have never seen this amount of un-contained fire across the state,” said Kate Brown, Oregon Governor, during a press conference. Smoke from the fires blanketed the state, and several towns across Oregon were “substantially destroyed,” she continued.
One of those towns was Phoenix in the Rogue Valley, where Rose lived. He and his family had left the area and weren’t able to return when the evacuation notice arrived; all they had with them was the clothes on their backs.
“We went to a church and watched a livestream of the fire,” he recalled. “The view wasn’t that great, so we were just hedging our bets that maybe it wasn’t our place on fire.”
By midnight, his home was gone, and Rose had lost everything. “I didn’t even have a toothbrush when I left home, it’s just all gone,” he said.
He informed his leadership in the morning, and “within 24 hours they were calling me saying they had stuff ready for me.”
“I was overwhelmed with support,” he said with a smile. He credits the solidarity of the 173rd FW for helping him and his family get through this tragedy. “I may have lost everything, but thanks to the support we’ve found here, I’m going to be back on my feet inside of a few weeks.” He added that he couldn’t imagine recovering without this support.
“There is something special about how the base supports guardsman in need,” said Cecily Gaudinski, 173rd FW Airman and Family Readiness program manager. She went on to add that the Resiliency Team maintains direct and continuous contact with all members and families affected, and will continue to as needed.
Rose contended that this is in sharp contrast to many who lack the support network provided by the military. “There are people that could still be struggling in six months,” he added.
Despite the losses that he has experienced, Rose remains optimistic. He expects to move back into normal life very quickly and is looking for a new home in the area.
“We are starting from ground zero, and you can either do that with a positive attitude or a negative attitude, so I would rather stay positive,” he said.
Rose also says the support will allow him to help his neighbors who also lost everything, “I want to pay it forward.”