Over the past few months the Office of State Fire Marshal (OSFM) has added new capacity as a result of the investment made by the Oregon Legislature during the January 2021 Emergency Board. This investment was the beginning of a conversation and with the end of session nearing, Senate Bill 762 & House Bill 3160, continue to take form. These bills, should they pass, would be the first of a kind wildfire policy bills that will begin to change the dial on codes, response & agency capacity, community risk reduction and mitigation efforts.
As the OSFM begins to prepare for the possibility of new legislation, I am announcing two new initiatives that will focus on better preparing Oregon for the impacts of wildfires. Last fire season illustrated the need for our office to make investments in our communities, fire service, and preparedness. The way we do business needs to change to improve how we meet the expectations of our public and keep pace with the reality of "fire years" as opposed to seasons. These investments will give the OSFM capacity to support the creation of fire adapted communities, modernize our response systems and technology, and build on our Oregon Fire Mutual Aid System (OFMAS) structure and processes.
Response Ready Oregon:
Response Ready Oregon will improve the Oregon Fire Service Mutual Aid System (OFMAS) by modernizing technology, systems, and increasing capacity. OSFM will utilize Regional Mobilization Coordinators to collaborate with fire defense board chiefs (FDBCs) and fire chiefs to develop, administer, and maintain strategies and plans to improve the OFMAS locally, regionally, and statewide. In addition, our office has added a Training and Safety Officer, and Emergency Planner within our operations to better support the OFMAS.
What does Response Ready Oregon mean for your fire district or department?
Response Ready Oregon will provide extra capacity to local jurisdictions and FDBCs. Components of Response Ready Oregon are:
- Modernize systems and technology at the appropriate scale to support the Oregon Fire Mutual Aid System
- Assist the Oregon Fire Service by creating and enhancing the local and regional mutual aid plans
- Assist the Fire Defense Board Chiefs during initial attack, assessing of fire, and requesting conflagration if necessary
- Regional inventory of apparatus
- Fire season readiness reviews
- Assist in determining fire service gaps and needs
- Liaise with the emergency management community, ODF, and other state, tribal, and federal wildland fire partners.
What to expect?
Response Ready Oregon Mobilization Coordinators will work with you to become a resource embedded in your communities through 5 defined regions. They assist in the development of mutual-aid agreements within assigned regions and statewide, communicate with partners to establish a baseline level of protection for all Oregon lands, and coordinate agreements with the local, state, federal, and tribal wildfire response partners. Our Regional Coordinators will work in lockstep with the Deputy State Fire Marshals' throughout this summer to build relationships and capacity for the Oregon Fire Service Mutual Aid System. The recruitment and hiring is underway and official announcements will be forthcoming. Please expect that your new mobilization coordinators will be reaching out to introduce themselves within the month.
Fire Adapted Oregon:
Fire Adapted Oregon will prepare communities and our public for fire by utilizing an integrated and strategic investment of resources to reduce fires and its impact to the public. This program will be grounded in statewide data, science, new defensible space codes, and trends. OSFM will be using Community Risk Reduction Specialists to work with local partners to create and promote fire adapted communities in Oregon. In addition, should Senate Bill 762 pass, the Fire & Life Safety Division will adopt, implement, and enforce a statewide Defensible Space Code in High and Extreme classification levels within Oregon.
What does Fire Adapted Oregon mean for your fire district or department?
Fire Adapted Oregon will provide extra capacity to fire agencies and programs, develop risk reduction plans, provide technical assistance in community risk reduction strategies, provide local education, and coordinate fire safety information and training needed. Components of Fire Adapted Oregon are:
- Improve community resiliency to wildfire
- Enhance defensible space for homes and surrounding structures
- Investments locally to assist communities and fire service with prevention, adaption, and mitigation efforts
- Improve structural fire prevention through community risk reduction efforts
- Improve public awareness of wildland fire and its impact to communities
- Improve public readiness for wildland fire
As our Deputy State Fire Marshals work to adopt, implement and enforce a new defensible space code, the Community Risk Reduction Specialists will serve as a resource for community planning for wildfire, community educational events, financial opportunities, and provide technical assistance to communities as they pursue actions to become more adapted to living with fire. The new Community Risk Reduction Program will implement this initiative by placing 5 regional fire specialists throughout the state, should SB 762 pass, these regions may increase from 5 to 10 .
What to expect?
Fire Adapted Oregon's Fire Risk Specialists will assist locals with plans, programs and actions that will increase the local community's ability to prevent, prepare, and mitigate before the fire, live safely during the fire event, and help the community recover from impacts. The recruitment and hiring is underway and official announcements will be forthcoming. Please expect that your new Fire Risk Specialists will be reaching out to introduce themselves within the Month.
Where can you provide feedback?
We will be designing a Feedback Council for our fire service partners. This Council will provide a feedback loop for the Oregon Fire Service as we implement these new initiatives. Over the coming months we will sending additional information on the council.
Many exciting changes are coming to our office and the OFMAS. Added capacity in the face of increased demands of our office and the Oregon Fire Service will better serve our public. Each of our organizations has been tested over the past year with COVID and a “first of kind” fire season and as we look towards the possibility of another challenging fire season these initiatives and added capacity will continue to increase response, preparedness and resiliency. Thank you and take good care.
Oregon State Fire Marshal