Ashland Fire & Rescue Adds Fire Season Staffing with State Grant
Ashland Fire & Rescue is adding firefighting capacity this summer, supported by a grant from the Office of the State Fire Marshal, an outgrowth of the Oregon State Legislature’s wildfire program package known as Senate Bill 762. Ashland’s allocation for this summer is $35,000.
The program of adding firefighting capacity is called upstaffing. Upstaffing adds firefighters who would normally be off duty back to the roster on a given day for a minimum of 12 additional hours from 8 AM to 8 PM each day. City budgets don’t normally allow this much overtime, but State of Oregon grant funds will cover that cost until September 30th this year.
Upstaffing can be anywhere from one to four firefighters, depending on the level of normal staffing that day and importantly, the predicted fire danger and weather conditions. On Red Flag fire weather warning days, Ashland can upstaff to a total of 13 firefighters. This allows the addition of two added fire engines to respond to any fires, and allows for more robust fire responses even when fire crews are already committed to non-fire emergency calls, which is not uncommon given there are over 10 emergency calls per day on average.
“We’re excited to have this shot in the arm during our high-risk time of the year. We can do so much more to protect our community with more staff on the front line,” said Fire Chief Ralph Sartain.
Chief Sartain and Fire Chiefs before him have been strong advocates for increasing firefighter staffing permanently, as Ashland Fire & Rescue has been chronically understaffed for the number of 911 calls received each year. Upstaffing does not solve the staffing shortage, but it does allow for added help during the heat of the summer when wildfire risk is at its peak.