MEDFORD, Ore. -- On Wednesday, eight fire agencies including Rural Metro Fire, Medford Fire & Rescue, the Oregon Department of Forestry, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and more addressed concerns of how they will handle the increases in wildfires during the 2021 Fire Season.
"We remain poised to engage this summer," said Fire District 3 Chief Mike Hussey. "From your smallest rural fire district in Prospect, to Wolf Creek, down to the valley floor, we are all engaged to working together and we will come to the fight."
According to the ODF Southwest, more than 130 wildfires have started and have burned around 200 acres since the wildfire season began in Jackson and Josephine counties a little more than a month ago. Officials have told NewsWatch 12 that the 130 plus wildfires equals out to about a 250% increase compared what the counties usually experience.
"You go back 10-15 years ago and we would typically experience active fire behavior in late June or earlier July," said ODFSW's Tyler McCarty. "Now we are seeing fire danger and we are running on a lot of fires in late March and early April and things are really speeding up."
But thanks to an increase in communication and collaboration between fire agencies, the amount of land burned in those wildfires have been kept in check.
"This summer we are all going to be standing together shoulder to shoulder trying to keep fires as small as possible to protect our communities and are natural resources," said McCarty.
Multiple fire agencies said on Wednesday that resources have remained relatively the same since last year, with some agencies increasing the amount of engines or helicopters at their disposal.
ODF says that they are staffing 22 engines, two type two helicopters and have even added a next generation air tanker. BLM says that it has over 200 firefighters, three engines and even a veteran fire crew for this season.
Over the last several months, the U.S. Forest in the Rogue-River Siskiyou National Forest has been working on prescribed burns to minimize the chances of a new wildfire from starting and says that they are halfway towards their goal.
"What have we done to prepare our communities since last season to protect them from fires, well we've applied 4,000 acres of prescribed burns on our lands which is aggressively moving us to our 8,000 target directed by the region," said Deputy Fire & Aviation Staff Officer Dan Quinones.
However, Quinones acknowledges that 4,000 acres of prescribed burns is not enough and says that the U.S. Forest Service is working on increasing the pace and scale of those prescribed burns to help keep the surrounding community safe.