MEDFORD, Ore-- Today fire officials across Southern Oregon met in Medford with U.S. Senator Ron Wyden. Fire officials discussed the forecast for this fire season.
Multiple times during the meeting Senator Wyden said how smart fire prevention in the Rogue Valley and all of Oregon has to be the top priority. Something else he discussed was a law he helped create. He says fire prevention funding is short changed. He goes on to say that money dedicated for fire prevention is snatched up to help put out giant fires. That problem would apparently only get worse. That's why he helped create this new law that would provide funding specifically for fire prevention. It could not be used to help fight fires. "We would fight the big fire not by raiding the prevention funds, but take the money from the disaster accounts. We would treat those big fires like the disasters that they are." said Senator Wyden.
During the meeting local and federal fire officials also explained how they are preventing wildfires this season. Some groups did controlled burns, some monitored areas that need to be cleaned up and others looked at the water shed.
The other big topic discussed was drones. These drones have become a vital tool when fighting wildfires. Not only in Oregon but, across the country.
"I can tell you those small drones that can get really into these dangerous situations and get real time information back to these folks. These are a lifeline." said Senator Wyden. When it's smoky helicopters are not able to fly, but drones can. "Having that capacity and using them when we need them." said Dave Larson. He is the District Forester for ODF in Southwest Oregon. He says his department has a couple drones and pilots. "Provide that detail and the situational awareness drones can provide." said Larson.
Drones are not only used to see in smoky situations. They are also used at night when helicopters are not able to fly. "So those would be the two times that I could see that they would be highly effective, helping us get that situational awareness on the fire." said Larson.
With all the talk about drones. Senator Wyden learned just how critical they've become. "I was really struck that for those fighting fires, the people on the front lines, what they told me is in the years ahead drones are going to be as prevalent as chain saws." said Senator Wyden.