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ODF 'has the funding it needs' to fight Oregon's wildfires over potentially active fire season, state officials say

Ahead of another summer in Oregon with the potential for major wildfires, state officials held a conference on how agencies are prepared to respond.

Posted: Jun 5, 2020 6:13 PM
Updated: Jun 5, 2020 6:33 PM

SALEM, Ore. — Though conditions on the ground look dire for the 2020 Fire Season in Oregon, state officials expressed a measured degree of optimism in a Friday press briefing with multiple agencies involved in the state's wildfire response.

In February, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) signaled that it was rapidly running out of funds less than a year into the agency's two-year budget cycle. Less than a month later, the 2020 legislative session ended without lawmakers addressing proposed funding for the agency after Republicans shunned the Capitol in protest over a cap-and-trade bill, prompting Democrats to end the session early.

Nonetheless, state Natural Resources Policy Director Justin Miner said on Friday that "ODF has the funding it needs" to face the coming fire season.

In April, the Oregon legislature emergency board did give give ODF a small influx of additional funding — approving a budget of $55.6 million for the 2020 wildfire season, according to a report from OPB.

Miner said that the larger funding proposal that fell flat in the last legislative session, which represented an investment in ODF's firefighting future, will likely return in the 2021 session — if greatly reduced due to the economic downturn of coronavirus.

ODF Fire Protection division chief Doug Grafe said that the agency will be able to maintain fairly typical staffing levels this year, hiring 600 seasonal firefighters. Moreover, Grafe said that the U.S. Forest Service had made available a supply of heavy Type I firefighting helicopters that will be on hand for the 2020 season — something that has not been the case in previous years.


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Fire weather predictions for 2020 have not looked favorable for the Pacific Northwest this summer — particularly for southwest Oregon and northern California, which face above normal "significant large fire potential" from June through September, according to federal models. Much of this is due to drought conditions in southern Oregon counties.

Unexpected rain and low temperatures in Oregon over the past several weeks have improved the outlook somewhat, Grafe said, potentially buying the region some extra time before major fires begin.

Since 2020 began, ODF has seen 16 lightning-caused fires and 162 human-caused fires — the latter representing a significant spike over the previous 9-year average of 95 human-caused fires by June 1. Around 3,000 acres have burned since the beginning of the year.

Grafe said that COVID-19 precautions mean that both training and deployment of wildland firefighters will look different this year, with increased isolation in firefighting camps. Lunch lines will be replaced with box lunches, and command posts will be separated from the rest of the camp.

Initial fire attack crews will be equipped with face shields and N95 masks. Grafe said that this year there will be greater emphasis on an aggressive initial attack, an attempt to keep fires from growing to cover hundreds or thousands of acres.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 176157

Reported Deaths: 2461
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah35145568
Washington23569229
Marion20282299
Clackamas15499204
Lane11722144
Jackson9984127
Umatilla798483
Deschutes721472
Linn418763
Yamhill412575
Klamath353759
Polk346452
Malheur343058
Josephine307862
Douglas305765
Benton275418
Jefferson207432
Coos198431
Columbia155426
Union141824
Lincoln130520
Wasco130228
Hood River113029
Morrow108115
Clatsop9008
Crook89119
Baker86114
Curry5999
Tillamook5833
Grant4204
Lake4147
Harney3136
Wallowa1575
Gilliam571
Sherman571
Wheeler261
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3723446

Reported Deaths: 61122
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles122964123668
Riverside2976204547
San Bernardino2949734561
San Diego2753683674
Orange2691764900
Santa Clara1173172017
Kern1080131331
Sacramento1016651647
Fresno1007021646
Alameda855831477
Ventura803321002
San Joaquin717351334
Contra Costa67157782
Stanislaus605831032
Tulare49443831
Monterey43301364
San Mateo41226560
San Francisco36094529
Santa Barbara33926446
Solano32047239
Merced31289453
Sonoma29720311
Imperial27995719
Kings22781245
Placer21908283
San Luis Obispo20991257
Madera16289240
Santa Cruz15666204
Marin13868226
Yolo13572200
Shasta11747219
Butte11601196
El Dorado9797109
Napa971579
Sutter9299109
Yuba612744
San Benito598963
Lassen567924
Tehama544556
Nevada448975
Tuolumne408664
Mendocino399347
Humboldt363138
Amador362946
Lake341643
Glenn235825
Colusa220416
Calaveras206252
Siskiyou196521
Inyo141838
Del Norte12907
Mono12744
Plumas6936
Modoc4904
Mariposa4287
Trinity3985
Sierra1100
Alpine880
Unassigned440
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