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Oregon firefighters honing skills on wildfires in other states
Contact: Rod Nichols
The La Nina weather pattern has delayed the onset of wildfire season in the Pacific Northwest, but Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) firefighters are seeing plenty of action elsewhere. Currently, some 66 “overhead” – specially trained fire management personnel – are on the fire lines in five states.
ODF’s Salem Coordination Center has dispatched 50 personnel to Alaska to aid suppression efforts on the numerous large fires burning there. Sixteen department firefighters are assisting local fire agencies to battle fast-moving blazes in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Georgia.
While La Nina has brought cool, damp weather to Oregon and its neighboring states this spring, the cyclic weather pattern is delivering warmer temperatures and below-average precipitation to much of the rest of the U.S., creating the need for additional firefighting assistance.
It has worked out well for ODF, since the deployments are enabling Oregon fire personnel to gain fire line experience and keep up their national firefighting qualifications.
ODF incurs no financial drain from assisting other states, since the jurisdictional agency hosting a fire suppression operation pays the bills.
As Oregon enters summer weather conditions, ODF’s fire managers will pull back their personnel from the out-of-state assignments to be ready for wildfires at home. While fire activity typically picks up around the Fourth of July, forecasters predict a delay of a month or more this summer.
Seven ODF personnel have returned from earlier fire assignments in the Southwest and Alaska.