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State Fire Marshal's Office grant helps Woodburn Fire District during fire season

COURTESY PHOTO: WOODBURN FIRE DISTRICT - Woodburn Fire District hires two temporary firefighters to man Brush 21 during the 2022 fire season.The devastating Labor Day weekend wildfires that shocked much of the region in 2020 sparked state legislative action that's helping local fire districts today.

Senate Bill 762 provided more than $220 million to modernize and improve wildfire preparedness in Oregon with aims to create fire-adapted communities, promote safe and effective responses and improve resilience of the state's landscapes.

On July 21 Woodburn Fire District announced that it received a $35,000 seasonal grant through the Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office which provides for the hiring of two additional firefighters through the 2022 fire season. Those firefighters came onboard July 8 and staff WFD's Brush 21, a small-scale fire engine specifically designed for rapid response to brush and grass fires.

The 2020 wildfires destroyed thousands of structures and scorched more than a million acres. Grants received by WFD and other fire-service agencies statewide are intended for proactive measures that increase firefighter staffing during the fire season.

"In light of the wildfire seasons that we have experienced during recent years, the fire district would like to thank the state leadership for taking a proactive approach to strengthen the district's firefighting capability," WFD Chief Joe Budge said. "The temporary funding improves the district's ability to quickly respond to wildland fires and helps to support the district's overall mission to safeguard the community during the busy summer months."

The two new temporary firefighters, Jared Redmon and Ian Niktab, are staffing Brush 21 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday when the district's peak activity Engine 20 is off duty.

Budge said Redmon and Niktab will respond to overlapping emergency calls when the career firefighter staffed engine is not available due to engagement at another call. Brush 21 will also supplement career and volunteer firefighters in response to large-scale incidents requiring multiple resources.

The seasonal firefighter employment will remain in place until the grant funds are exhausted in mid-September.

Both temps are seasoned volunteers.

Redmon began his fire-service career in 2019 as a member of WFD's student resident volunteer program. Since joining the district, he has graduated from Chemeketa Community College with a degree in fire science, completed the emergency medical technician (EMT) certification program and has plans to attend paramedic school this fall.

Budge stressed that Redmon is a proven member of the fire district, earning recognition as the 2020 Student of the Year, 2021 Volunteer Firefighter of the Year and a unit commendation in 2020 for his part in saving several homes threatened by the Wilhoit wildland fire near Molalla.

Niktab began volunteering with the fire district in December of 2021 and has already earned a Firefighter 1 certification, which involves more than 200 hours of classroom lecture and hands-on training. He is also nearing completion of the EMT training program, which requires the equivalent of 6 months of full-time college enrollment.

Budge said Niktab had a successful, long-standing teaching position with the Woodburn School District prior to pursuing a fire-service career. His passion and dedication to serving the community were significant factors in his selection for a seasonal position with the fire district.

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- Wildfire training takes place in Woodburn

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