ODF Reaches Out for Help

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EUGENE, Ore. — A rash of fires kept response crews busy all weekend, especially since they aren’t staffed at normal fire season levels yet.

The Oregon Department of Forestry says most of its summer employees are college students who aren’t out of school yet, let alone trained.

ODF reps say whether or not they’re in fire season, they’ve always got a plan in place to make sure they’re as ready as they can be for those unexpected blazes.

This past weekend, the fires were plentiful and the crews shorthanded.

“We have about approximately eight full time people whose job it is to deal with initial attack,” said Matt Mackey, ODF Wildland Fire Supervisor. “We’re really only at about 25 percent of our normal staffing level.”

And that’s for the Siuslaw Forest Area. For those in the Willamette region, the numbers aren’t much better. And staffing isn’t the only issue.

“It’s trickier because not all the contracts are in effect either,” Mackey said.

ODF reps say during this transitional period, they have to get pretty creative about how to take down these fires, but it’s do-able with their mutual aid agreements.

“We always try and share the need if we have the resources. Coburg will provide them, Eugene, whoever the district is, they’re happy to provide that,” said Chad Minter, Coburg Fire Chief.

And while it may be stressful at times, they all understand they’re working toward the same thing.

“We work hard in the off season to develop relationships with other organizations, the Forest Service, the fire departments and a lot of our timber industries,” said Karen Swearingen, ODF South Cascade Unit Forester.

Overall, ODF wants the public to know, if there is a fire, they’ll find the resources best as they can.

“They’re not as plentiful now as they would be in the summer, but they’re out there and we’ve had a great response,” Mackey said.

Firefighters are asking for the public to help out too by not burning when it’s not burn season or when it’s windy, chip your stuff, whatever you need to do to cut down the human causes of fire will definitely help from stretching those resources so thinly.

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