Shorthanded firefighters team up to prevent disaster

 MEDFORD, Ore. — After an active week of wildfires, conditions are still ripe for fire with hot and dry weather in the forecast. That’s why shorthanded firefighters are teaming up to prevent disaster.

“We’re really gearing up right now,” said Natalie Weber of the Oregon Department of Forestry describing their seasonal firefighters. “When things like multiple burn piles escaping, we’re a bit short staffed for that we’re running all over the valley.”

That forces it to call on other local fire crews for help.

“It’s really helpful to have our partner agencies, different districts be able to jump in with us and get those out before it becomes a bigger problem than it is,” Weber said.

Fire season often begins in early June, that’s when ODF hopes to have 120 additional seasonal firefighters in southwest Oregon ready to step in.

“Our partners at ODF and Forest Service aren’t fully staffed yet, they don’t have their full rank of seasonals,” said Melissa Cano with Medford Fire-Rescue, “so they really lean on all of the partners on the structural side to really step up.”

For now, agencies like ODF and the U.S. Forest Service are busy with their hiring processes, they said that’s why it’s so important they get help before things get quickly out of control.

“Right now while they might lean on us a little bit more because we have a bit more staffing than them,” Cano said, during fire season when things are taking off, you’re getting multiple fire calls a day, that’s something we just simply can’t keep up with. That’s when they really are valuable partners because that’s who keeps the fires small.”

Fire officials say teamwork is always important when battling wildfires. Last year at the Penninger Fire at the Jackson County Expo, at least five agencies were on scene working together to contain the flames and save homes.


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