PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Clackamas Fire Chief Nick Browne told state leaders and county commissioners his team learned a great deal since the historic wildfires of 2020 — and they’ve also increased resources.

“Obviously, the 2020 wildfires had a significant impact to our community, the men and women we swore an oath to protect,” Browne said. “We’ve learned from last year what happens when all resources get overwhelmed and so we’ve really started working on that partnership with the state.”

Clackamas County Commissioner Paul Savas noted that there were times last year when there was no help coming.

Hot Shot firefighters at the Riverside Fire in Clackamas County, September 17, 2020 (KOIN)

“When Clackamas Fire, for example, and our other county fire districts reached out for outside response or help, everyone was tapped, all resources were tapped, so they didn’t have any help,” Savas said. “They had to fight it on their own.”

Chief Browne briefed the board on wildfire preparations and praised the state of Oregon for raising the bar over last year.

“The state’s done a really good job this year of starting to stage resources,” Browne said. “They’re taking pages out of California’s book.”

He outlined new resources, including a federally funded 20-person crew whose primary mission is to reduce wildfire fuels.

“They’re also a Type 2 hand crew resource for us in the event of a major incident like we had last year,” he said. “They’re phenomenal. They get after it. They’re good workers.”

They’ve also increased staff on one of the enhanced brush trucks and created a system that makes it easier for Clackamas Fire to contact resources such as helicopters and contractors.

The Conflagration Act

Gov. Kate Brown has invoked the Conflagration Act a few times already this wildfire season. That brings more resources to an area to help fight it.

But how does it work?

This is how Chief Nick Browne explained it.

“The state fire marshal’s office has established fire defense boards. Clackamas County has a fire defense board, Marion County, Washington County, Multnomah County, they all have fire defense boards and it’s made up of all the local fire departments and there’s a fire defense board chief.

“So what happens is anytime there’s an escalating incident that the local resources can’t handle they have to exhaust all their mutual aid. So that would be Clackamas Fire mutual aiding with Tualatin Valley, with Portland, with Canby, with Estacada, with everybody that’s on our mutual aid list, and once we do that if the fire’s still escalating we then go to the fire defense board chief and we say we need to have a conflagration (and make a call in) a direct link to the governor and they request that.

“The state asks that departments are self sufficient for 72 hours.

“Then there’s a transition of command to from the fire chief to the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s office who oversees the resources for that fire.”