MEDFORD, Ore. — Four Oregon Department of Forestry fire engines and their two-person crews arrived in Northern California yesterday to help with wildfires that have been ravaging parts of that state. ODF’s Southwest and Klamath-Lake districts bordering California sent the crews as part of a long-standing mutual fire aid agreement between U.S. states. Two of the engines came from Grants Pass, one from Klamath Falls and one from Medford. A ninth ODF employee also went from Medford in a support role. Because of more than a dozen wind-driven wildfires, California’s governor has declared a fire emergency in three counties – Napa, Sonoma and Yuba. These fast-moving fires have caused fatalities, burned down homes and businesses, caused hurried evacuations and fully engaged local and state firefighting resources. The ODF teams will be put to use where the Northern California incident command deems they are needed most.
This reciprocal aid is an important way the nation is able to ensure individual states or regions are not overwhelmed during peak fire events. For example, earlier this summer California sent teams north into ODF’s Southwest Oregon District during an especially active run of wildfires. Over eight weeks in August and September, district firefighters battled some 317 wildfires. At the peak, during a single week in August, ODF responded to 154 wildfires in Josephine and Jackson counties – an average of 22 a day. Cal-Fire, the state agency responsible for fighting wildfires on state-protected lands, sent crews that helped with initial attack.
One result of this mutual aid was ODF’s Southwest Oregon District was able to contain 97 percent of all wildfires on ODF-protected land to less than 10 acres, and total acres burned to under a thousand.