OR Fire agencies plan to put out small fires before they grow


Vickie Aldous, Mail Tribune, Medford, Ore.

June 5 – Fire agencies plan to aggressively attack fires while small in an effort to protect southwestern Oregon from wildfires that are out of control.

Managers said they hope the fire season that started on Wednesday will be a repeat of last year. Firefighters jumped on hundreds of rural fires in 2021 and prevented them from turning into major wildfires.

“I can not promise you that we will not have big fires here. “But what I can promise you – and this is the direction I have given all my people – is that we will leave no doubt that we have done everything possible to put out fires this summer,” said the Oregon Department’s forester. of Forestry in the Southwest District, Tyler McCarty told Jackson County commissioners during a fire season briefing earlier this week.

ODF is charged with the protection of private forest land plus federal Bureau of Land Management area.

The agency’s lofty goal is to put out 98% of fires on or under 10 acres. Last year, the ODF Southwest district extinguished 97.8% of fires on or under 10 acres, McCarty said.

Merv George, national forest supervisor of Rogue River-Siskiyou, said he shares the same philosophy of attacking arson attacks aggressively.

George noted that some members of the public believe that forests need to see more fire to return to healthier conditions. He said he shares that view for the cool, humid parts of the year, but not during fire season.

“One of the things I saw first-hand in our forest is when you have a veld fire in the middle of the hottest time of the year, when you get a trifecta – which is 100 degrees weather, single digit relative humidity and east winds . – that fire will move, ”said George.

Massive wildfires broke out under those conditions and spread throughout the region, he said.

George said the Forest Service would work to put out fires quickly. However, he said firefighters could not control everything, as if a lightning storm brought hundreds of attacks to the area.

“But if we get one that gets away, it’s not because we did not try,” George said.

Rick Dyer, commissioner of Jackson County, said commissioners support 100% full suppression during fire season. He said he was pleased that leaders of local agencies and commissioners share the same goal.

Commissioner Colleen Roberts said she wished agencies everywhere had the same view. She said Rogue Valley residents end up inhaling the smoke of far-flung wildfires where leaders are less aggressive.

Tyler said agencies will work hard together, but they face a mix of conditions this fire season that could lead to major wildfires.

On the good side, the area’s snow pack has improved to 140% of normal thanks to spring rainfall, he said.

But Jackson County is still in a long-term drought, with most of the country in extreme drought conditions. Rainfall for June may be below normal, and the long-distance forecast requires a dry July and August, Tyler said.

Fires can be started by humans, or lightning storms without rain can ignite fires, he said.

“If we get any of it, or a combination of it, it can be very difficult,” Tyler said.

George said late spring rains helped. Any cool, wet day is one less day of fire danger, he said.

ODF and fire districts are getting a hand from the Oregon Legislature, which has allocated more money to boost firefighters and resources when fire danger increases, said Bob Horton, chief of Jackson County Fire District 3.

This will enable leaders to position firefighters in advance and schedule more staff on dangerous days, he said.

In the past, Horton said, local governments would ask the state to approve a fire declaration if a wildfire becomes too large for local firefighters to handle. The state would then send in outside help.

It could take hours before help arrives, or even longer if firefighters come from outside the state, Horton said.

“What we are seeing for the first time this year is the state making investments in the staff of units before the fire. We think this is an important component of the puzzle. “We do not want to wait until a fire gets out of our control to start bringing in resources,” Horton said.

McCarty said ODF hires more seasonal firefighters to help and is working harder on recruiting than he has ever seen in his career.

But he said the state needs to reform how it staffs ODF.

McCarty said the state should fund full-time, annual ODF employees who fight fires in the summer and work on fuel reduction projects in the winter.

Contact Mail Tribune Reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

More to explorer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *