Pamplin Media Group – Oregon Department of Forests touts 2022 wildfire success

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New equipment, staff and funding reduce area burned despite hot, dry summer

Crews in Oregon are successfully putting out wildfires this season, despite hot temperatures and dry conditions, thanks to an investment in personnel and equipment.

As of Monday, Aug. 15, Oregon Department of Forestry crews have extinguished 418 fires, keeping the spread to just 582 total acres. The average for the past 10 years was 590 fires burning 56,121 acres.

“Frankly, our people kicked in,” said Tim Holschback, deputy chief of policy and planning for the Oregon Department of Forestry. “While the lingering fires from recent lightning may add fires to the map, ODF firefighters have done an outstanding job of keeping them small.”

Officials attribute the passage of Senate Bill 762 to Salem, which allowed for the hiring of additional seasonal firefighters and full-time positions to augment capacity throughout the year. These investments have saved “millions” of dollars, officials said, as wildfires have been contained and moved away from populated communities.

Increased investment has also improved earlier detection of forest fires. The multi-mission aircraft is in its third season of operation, funded by the Oregon Forest Lands Protection Fund. It has state-of-the-art thermal cameras that overlay information using an augmented reality map.

“This ‘eyes-in-the-sky’ asset can then feed that information into a firefighting database,” said ODF state air operations specialist Jamie Knight. “Our dispatch centers in the state can see these maps and quickly dispatch the best resources to attack the fire.”

These resources include firefighters and ground equipment, or one of more than 27 state-contracted aircraft, including eight tankers, five fixed-wing surveillance craft and 14 helicopters.

For more information on the state of wildfires in Oregon, visit bit.ly/3AmEY71


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