The volunteers of the Upper McKenzie Rural Fire Protection District protect and serve the “upper” McKenzie River Valley including the communities of Blue River, Rainbow and McKenzie Bridge. The District includes the 30 miles McKenzie Highway (OR 126 E), the Clear Lake Cut-Off Highway to the Santiam Junction and all of the Old McKenzie Highway (OR 242). The Department also protects the headwaters of the McKenzie River, the upper miles of the river, two large hydroelectric dams and the reservoirs, miles of trails and wilderness areas in the Willamette National Forest.
At one time, Cougar Dam was the largest earthen dam in the world. There is a wealth of history in the area. Blue River was a town built on the jobs from the dams and the timber industry. Before that, it was an active mining community. The river supports thousands of whitewater rafters, kayakers, and outdoor enthusiasts. There are numerous historic fishing lodges along the river from the early 1900’s. There is a world-class golf course and numerous hot springs that draw visitors to the area.
Upper McKenzie RFPD responds to approximately 350 calls per year, increasing every year. Most of the calls are medical emergencies, but there are many motor vehicle accidents, wilderness rescues and wildland fires. Unfortunately, the District has had two of the largest wildfires in the state the last two summers.