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New equipment, personnel, funding make dent in burned acreage despite dry, hot summer

COURTESY PHOTO: NORTHWEST COORDINATION CENTER - Wildfires are being handled this summer thanks to new investments of crews and technology. Oregon crews are having success dousing wildfires this season, despite hot temperatures and dry conditions, thanks to an investment of people and equipment.

As of Monday, Aug. 15, Oregon Department of Forestry crews have suppressed 418 fires, holding the spread to only 582 acres total. The previous 10-years average was 590 fires burning 56,121 acres.

"Frankly, our people have been kicking butt," said Tim Holschback, Oregon Department of Forestry deputy chief of policy and planning. "Although there is a possibility for holdover fires from the recent lightning to add fires to the map, ODF's firefighters have been doing a remarkable job keeping them small."

Officials credit the passage of Senate Bill 762 out of Salem, which allowed for the hiring of additional seasonal firefighters and full-time positions to increase year-round capabilities. Those investments have led to saving "millions" of dollars, officials said, because the wildfires have been kept small and away from populated communities.

Increased investments have also led to improvements in detecting wildfires earlier. The multi-mission aircraft is in its third season of operation, paid for by the Oregon Forest Land Protection Fund. It has state-of-the-art thermal cameras that overlay information using an augmented reality map.

"This 'eyes in the skies' asset can then feed that information into a firefighting data base," said Jamie Knight, ODF state aviation operations specialist. "Our dispatch centers around the state can see those maps and quickly send the best resources to attack the fire."

Those resources include ground-based firefighters and equipment, or one of more than 27 aircrafts contracted with the state — including eight tankers, five fixed-wing supervision crafts, and 14 helicopters.

For more information on Oregon's wildfire status visit bit.ly/3AmEY71


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