PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As fire season continues across the state, new funds are hoping to staff up firefighters throughout the region.
According to the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal, the agency awarded $6 million in grants to the structural fire service to hire firefighting staff during the 2022 wildfire season. This means 180 local fire districts and departments across the state were awarded the funds.
Originally, the grant was available to 306 local fire districts and departments as part of the agency’s Response Ready Oregon Initiative.
“Our office has heard from multiple fire chiefs across Oregon who say this funding will have a profound, positive impact in communities across the state,” Oregon State Fire Marshal Mariana Ruiz-Temple said. “Agencies will be able to have additional paid firefighters at the ready during these critical summer months. This will help to keep fires small and away from communities.”
The hope is for the grant to boost capacity within the Oregon fire service and the Oregon Fire Mutual Aid System.
The agency uses OFMAS to mobilize the Oregon fire service to wildfire incidents and floods to help protect people, their homes and “critical” infrastructure, noted the announcement.
As part of the grant, fire agencies were able to request up to $35,000 to support staffing during this critical time of year. OSFM said the extra funds will increase on-duty capacity throughout this fire season at the local level and allow agencies to move quickly to fires at the local, regional and state – conflagration – levels.
“The community of Chiloquin Fire & Rescue and our mutual aid partners in Klamath County will benefit greatly,” Chiloquin Fire & Rescue Chief Mike Cook said. “The recent 242 and Bootleg fires ravaged our communities, highlighting the need for a robust firefighting force, available anytime. This grant will provide us the capability of using trained students, overtime staff, and volunteers during future events.”
Using this grant, Chiloquin Fire & Rescue plans to staff a variety of engines throughout the 2022 fire season.
“Saturday, July 2nd was the first day our additional staff was on shift,” said Cook. “We had a smoke report that turned out to be a fire in heavy timber. The engine staffed through this grant was able to get the fire under control and turn it over to the Oregon Department of Forestry. This is proof the program is viable and a great addition to the small rural departments.”
Where did the funds come from?
According to the announcement, funding for this up staffing grant was created through the Oregon Legislature and Senate Bill 762.