Oregon agencies prepare for the 2022 fire season

Published: May. 16, 2022 at 6:31 PM PDT
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - In the last month, Portland has received more rain than usual this time of year. But fire season is around the corner. In fact, the current wet weather has delayed fire season.

Gov. Kate Brown declared drought emergencies in 15 counties across the state, the most she’s ever seen. Fire officials are calling it a challenging year but have been able to get the necessary resources to get ready. Last year, Gov. Brown signed Senate Bill 762, $220 million to help Oregon improve on wildfire preparedness and that fund has been spread across all Oregon fire agencies.

“This is moving the Oregon structural fire service task forces and engines to rural communities when there’s a threat or risk,” says Travis Medema, OSD Fire Marshall. “It allows us to mobilize immediately should there be significant threat to a community and then lastly it added capacity to work with local communities and Oregon fire service to bolster capacity as needed.”

The Oregon National Guard plans to add 20 air quality monitors across the state and will have 12–22-member hand crews at camp. The Oregon Dept. of Forestry Fire has added smoke detection cameras but say staff can be a concern. Because of the Senate Bill 762, Fire Forestry says they’re in the final stages of hiring seasonal firefighters.

“In addition to our seasonal staffing we continue to staff three incident management teams for when we have that need for fires that escaped our initial attack and need a team incident,” says Chief Mike Shaw, Oregon Dept. Forestry Fire.

Chief Shaw says there are areas where fires will be difficult to suppress, but they are looking for creative ways to hire staff in rural locations. He says they will able to fulfill the hiring in all or most locations but shortages elsewhere will have an impact on Oregon.

“We will be reaching out to our neighboring states. We sent some of our firefighters to help them in their time of need so that when we get into the heart of our fire season and we are stretched thin, we can call on those folks and have some of those resources come respond and provide assistance to us. Bottom line, we’re going to be in pretty good shape this year as an agency, but we will get stretched if we get busy this summer overall as a collective firefighting community,” says Chief Shaw.

Fire officials say even though they’re teams are prepared to fight any fire, they want the public to be prepared as well. They recommend to have a plan in place and be 2-weeks ready in case of evacuation.