What you need to know now that fire season has begun in JaCo/JoCo

SOUTHERN OREGON, —It’s officially fire season in Jackson and Josephine counties Wednesday.  Multiple agencies came together, to discuss what the 2022 fire season means here in southwest Oregon.

As the agencies gear up, they’re all asking you to do your part, in mitigating fires this season. The speakers ranged from fire agencies at the federal level, to local city agencies, including law enforcement and emergency management. One message they shared collectively, was working to keep fires small this summer. ODF said last year it responded to 278 fires in Jackson and Josephine counties. Only 274 acres burned.

Despite a very wet spring, the district forester said when the tap shuts off, we will have the potential for large fires in our area. This is because our region’s forests are still suffering the long-term impacts of drought. It’s asking the public to be aware of the fire restrictions where you live and to follow them all fire season long.

“We’ve added three additional engines to our fleet, bringing our total to 26 engines that will be staffed daily we have the same complement of aviation assets we did last year, this includes two type 2 helicopters, 1 type 3 helicopter with helitack crew our fixed-wing air attack platform and a next-generation air tanker,” said Tyler McCarty ODF District Forester.

This week ODF is adding its 130 seasonal firefighters. Its also extending its dispatching staffing hours and says its detection center will be ready to detect fires in the early stages. For more information about ODF’s fire regulations, call or visit your local ODF office.

Last year, many of our region’s federal forests were home to the west’s biggest fires. The Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest, here in the Rogue Valley, says it’s gearing up for fire season. The Forest Service says its fuels are drying out quickly, but with the continued moisture, it’s slowing some.

Officials say it’s 21% below normal for its water year, and at 134% of its snowpack, which it says are good numbers to start the season on. The National Forest says its staffing levels are stable. That’s been a problem for the US Forest Service this year, at the national level. It has a 20-person helitack crew out of Merlin. The Rogue River Interagency Hotshot Crew has already increased its staffing to 25. They’re already on assignment in the southwest.

“Our overall intent from the Forest Service remains the same, we’re looking to put out all fires as quickly as possible as small as possible and as safely as possible if we have a large fire that escapes initial attack it won’t be from our lack of trying,” said Dan Quinones with the Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest.

Incident command post locations have been visited recently, and plans are finalized should there be a need for more resources to come in for a large fire. With fire season in full swing, the Oregon Office of Emergency Management is sharing some tips, to help keep you safe.

OEM says during fire season, it focuses on helping the community prepare, coordinate, and support its first response agencies with accurate and timely alerts and warnings. Emergency Manager Holly Powers says it’s important for residents to know the 3 evacuation levels.

Level one is Be Ready, which means prepare yourself for an evacuation, especially if you have children or animals and it might take you longer to evacuate. Level two is Be Set. OEM says you should assume there is significant danger in your area, and you need to leave at a moment’s notice. And finally, level three, which is Go Now, evacuate immediately, do not stop to gather belongings or protect your home.

“Personal preparedness is going to be key during this fire season as always our concern and priority is public safety and we want to make sure you’re able to get out of your house and have your family and pets be as safe as possible,” said Powers.

OEM urges Oregonians to evacuate anytime they feel unsafe. You can find more evacuation resources at revem.org, or jacksoncounty.org/alert

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Jenna King
NBC5 News Reporter Jenna King is a Burbank native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Sports Business. During her time at the U of O, she was part of the student-run television station, Duck TV. She also grew her passion for sports through interning with the PAC 12 Network. When Jenna is not in the newsroom you can find her rooting for her hometown Dodgers, exploring the outdoors, or binging on the latest Netflix release.
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