National firefighting resources limited as wildfires burn in California, Oregon

24 August 2020

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USA – PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – The National Interagency Fire Center has the United States at Level 5 preparedness as wildfires scorch thousands of acres of land in California.

Nationally, firefighting resources are limited right now, the fire center says. Locally, the state of Oregon has been placed at Level 4 preparedness.

“They start from one being the lowest sorta winter conditions, when local resources are able to handle almost any fire that would arise, all the way up to the highest level of demand for firefighting resources, which is Level 5,” Jim Gersbach with the Oregon Department of Forestry said.

Gersbach says right now, many resources are being sent to California because of the large number of wildfires there. Because of this, he says they’ve moved some resource to western Oregon, where there are more fires burning.

“It might be as few as one or two individuals from a particular station, but together they can help make a difference in those other fires east of the mountains,” Gersbach said.

There is still a lack of resources because of COVID-19, according to officials, who say international crews cannot come to the United States to help like they have before.

“Australia and New Zealand have sent some of their firefighters in the past with some of the fires in the northwest and that’s not possible to bring fire resources across the border,” Gersbach said.

Gersbach says despite coronavirus constraints, they do still have inmate crews helping, both at campsites and on the fire line.

“They are providing the boxed meals and things, they’re doing that, making sure litter is emptied so we don’t have to do all that or have ODF staff doing that,” Gersbach said. “It’s a big help, so that everyone gets fed and we don’t have to dedicate extra resources to those functions.”

There are five inmate hand crews from the South Fork Department of Corrections working on the Ridge Fire. In California, fire officials say fires from this year have already burned an area roughly the size of Delaware.

Copyright 2020 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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