Oregon State Fire Marshal awards $6 million to enhance firefighter staffing for upcoming wildfire season

April 23, 2024

Oregon fire marshal boosts staffing with grants

To prepare for the impending wildfire season, the Oregon State Fire Marshal (OSFM) has allocated $6 million in grants to 191 local fire agencies.

This funding initiative is part of the 2024 Wildfire Season Staffing Grant program, now in its third year, aimed at augmenting the number of firefighters and extending on-duty hours.

Eligible participants included agencies within the Oregon structural fire service, each able to apply for up to $35,000.

The grants are intended to enable these agencies to increase their firefighting staff or the hours they are available during the fire season.

Detailed information about the recipient agencies is available through the OSFM.

Impact of increased staffing on fire management

The increase in staffing from last year’s grant allocation has been credited with significant enhancements in fire response capabilities.

According to Sublimity Fire District Chief Alan Hume: “The staffing grant program has been a huge success for the Oregon fire service and our district.

“It allowed us to staff our station during the busiest time of the year, which we previously couldn’t do.

“This resulted in quicker responses with adequate staffing for not only our district but our neighboring agencies.

“Last year we had several fires in our area with the potential to develop into larger, extended duration fires.

“We were able, as a region, to keep those fires smaller.”

Chief Sean Hartley of the Crooked River Ranch Rural Fire Protection District echoed this sentiment, stating: “This grant has provided us the ability to respond to all requests for emergency services, including automatic and mutual aid requests in our district.

“This program is instrumental in keeping fires in our community small and allowed us to respond to multiple calls for service at the same time.”

Strategic investments and future plans

The 2024 Wildfire Season Staffing Grant program is just one component of a broader strategy to combat wildfire threats in Oregon.

Over the past three years, the OSFM has strategically invested in modernizing the Oregon Fire Mutual Aid System and aiding communities in becoming more adapted to wildfires.

The grant initiative is part of the OSFM’s Response Ready Oregon initiative, which focuses on increasing capacity and modernizing wildfire responses within the Oregon Fire Mutual Aid System (OFMAS).

The ultimate goal of Response Ready Oregon is to keep fires small and prevent them from threatening communities, thereby reducing the occurrence of costly large-scale conflagrations.

The OSFM is currently exploring various options to secure ongoing funding to continue this successful grant program into 2025 and beyond.

FSJA Comment

The Oregon State Fire Marshal’s proactive distribution of grants highlights a committed strategy to enhance firefighting capabilities statewide.

By funding additional staffing and extended service hours, Oregon is taking tangible steps to mitigate the risks associated with its wildfire season.

This approach supports local fire agencies financially and bolsters regional preparedness and response efficiency, potentially saving both lives and property.

The continuation of such funding, as explored by the OSFM, will be crucial for maintaining and improving these gains in the coming years.

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