Oregon's Rangeland Fire Protection Association Summit returns (Photo)
BURNS, Ore. — After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19 precautions, Oregon’s Rangeland Fire Protection Association Summit returned to Burns in early April for two days of information sharing, training, and lessons learned. Rangeland Fire Protection Associations (RFPA) are an integral part of the complete and coordinated wildfire protection system in Oregon. Oregon has 24 rangeland associations across eastern Oregon, with two additional associations in the formation process and two which are expanding. These associations provide protection for 5.5 million acres of State of Oregon and privately owned lands in remote areas of the state. Association members have a unique interest in suppression of wildfires, which impact their livelihoods and those of their neighbors.
The second annual Outstanding Neighbor Award was presented to association members who are instrumental in supporting and growing their association. The 2022 recipients were Patricia and Dale Martin, from Silver Creek RFPA. Patricia initiated the formation of the Silver Creek RFPA and has served as President of the Board. Dale has worked operationally as a firefighter and fire supervisor and has also served as President of the Board.
The RFPA Summit brings members together with partner agencies such as Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), Bureau of Land Management, Oregon’s Office of the State Fire Marshal, Oregon State University Extension Service, county emergency managers, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Natural Resources Conservation Service. During the Summit the rangeland associations shared information such as current membership, planned prevention/mitigation strategies, and experiences from the previous year’s wildfires. This year Doug Grafe, Oregon Wildfire Program Director, provided an update from the Governor’s Wildfire Council and other related legislative updates. ODF staff presented information for how to prepare grant applications, how to work with the media, and new fire intelligence programs RFPA’s can use to be more effective.
"Strong relationships are invaluable in wildland fire. We are excited to continue building our partnership with ODF and Oregon RFPAs," said Jeff Fedrizzi, BLM Oregon-Washington State Fire Management Officer. "We look forward to maximizing fire funding to help local RFPAs build their programs, which will in turn build a stronger wildland fire community."
Recent funding from Oregon’s legislature increased ODF staffing for RFPA support by adding three rangeland specialists and a radio technician. These positions will expand on training and support activities for the RFPA’s along with current Rangeland Coordinator Marvin Vetter and Administration Support Specialist Cassie Adamson. ODF facilitates wildfire training for RFPA firefighters, assists with grant applications, and helps with obtaining equipment through the Federal Excess Property Program (FEPP) and the Department of Defense Fire Fighter Program (FFP).
“Adding these positions has already allowed us to participate and support the Rangeland Fire Protection Associations better than we have in the past. We are getting more training completed, earlier this year and are able to spend more time in the field with each association as they prepare for fire season,” says Marvin Vetter, ODF’s Rangeland Coordinator.
History of RFPA’s in Oregon dates back to legislation enacted in 1963 which allowed for the formation of associations. In 1964 the Ironside RFPA was formed in northern Malhuer County. For many years they were the lone association in the state, however, in 1998 a new era of RFPA interest emerged. Between 1998 and 2001 five additional RFPA’s were formed with the support of Frank Vetter, ODF’s John Day Unit Forester. In 2006 Gordon Foster was appointed ODF’s Rangeland Coordinator, supporting creation of an additional eleven associations prior to his retirement in 2015. Both Frank and Gordon attended the Summit this year.