Local, national disasters seek TVF&R personnel, talents
As extreme wildland fires continue to scorch the West this fire season, agencies are calling on crews from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue for additional aid and support.
On Saturday, July 10, TVF&R firefighters were deployed to Klamath County to help battle the Bootleg Fire.
Some parts of Klamath County were forced to evacuate as the blaze doubled in size from Saturday to Sunday to more than 150,000 acres, as hot, dry, windy weather persists in the region, according to the incident report.
In an effort to bolster the response in snuffing out the massive blaze, Gov. Kate Brown invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act Wednesday, July 7. This is the second time in two days Brown has used her authority under the act, following the Jack Creek Fire in Douglas County, which prompted evacuations east of Roseburg.
"Whenever a fire in the state gets too large and they need assistance from additional resources they call … a conflagration of more resources and that's when we can pull resources from around the state and around the nation," said TVF&R spokesperson Rio Espinosa.
Once the governor makes this declaration, the Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office requests each county to deploy whatever resources they have available.
"I anticipate based on the uptick in fire activity throughout the state that the State Fire Marshal's Office will make additional requests from the counties." -- Cassandra Ulven, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue public affairs chief
TVF&R serves parts of Washington, Clackamas, Yamhill and Multnomah counties. The agency often receives multiple requests for aid each time the Emergency Conflagration Act is declared.
"I anticipate based on the uptick in fire activity throughout the state that the State Fire Marshal's Office will make additional requests from the counties," said TVF&R spokesperson Cassandra Ulven.
There has been an uptick in deployment requests in the last couple of years as drier, warmer conditions continue to cause alarming effects in not just Oregon, but Washington and California as well, Ulven said.
More fires means the need for more personnel and training is greater than ever, Ulven said.
"We've increased the amount of wildland firefighter training that we're doing for our folks, but we aren't at the point yet financially where we'll be adding additional firefighters exclusively for wildfire fighting," Ulven said.
Peer support at Florida condo collapse site
Across the country in Surfside, Florida, three TVF&R firefighters provided peer support and counseling to firefighters at the site of a disastrous condominium collapse to help them process their trauma.
"Our primary role was to assist Miami-Dade firefighters and their families work through and process mental health issues related to the building collapse," said peer support team lead Jeff Campbell.
The Champlain Towers South, a 12-story residential building, collapsed suddenly in the early morning hours of June 24, with the death toll reaching 94 as of press time, according to multiple reports. There are still 22 people "unaccounted for," Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said during a news conference on Monday, July 12.
Fire departments and search and rescue workers across the Miami region and the nation were deployed to the scene to search for victims.
In recent years, more awareness has been centered on the mental health of first-responders who are at these sorts of tragic scenes, Ulven said.
"It's much more powerful when emergency responders are counseled by people who can relate to the kinds of emotional impact, fatigue and environmental factors that they're working through." -- Cassandra Ulven, TVF&R public affairs chief
An estimated 30% of first responders develop depression or post-traumatic stress disorder at some point during their careers, compared to 20% of the general population, according to a 2015 Suppplemental Research Bulletin Study.
"There's quite a lot of history with not just TVF&R, but the fire service in general, in recognizing the mental health impacts on emergency responders through their repeated exposure to traumatic events," Ulven said.
TVF&R and the Tualatin Valley Firefighters Union have had partnered for more than a decade to train firefighters on peer support, as well as to provide behavioral health, occupational health and wellness services within the fire district.
"It's much more powerful when emergency responders are counseled by people who can relate to the kinds of emotional impact, fatigue and environmental factors that they're working through," Ulven said.
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