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State grant helps La Pine Fire District add crew during times of extreme fire danger, emergencies

La Pine Rural Fire District on scene of Old Wood Fire south of Sunriver
La Pine Fire District
La Pine Rural Fire District on scene of Old Wood Fire south of Sunriver

La PINE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- This summer, the La Pine Fire District is able to have an additional fire crew available during times of "red flag" conditions, extreme fire behavior, Central Oregon Task Force activations and state emergencies due to a supplemental fire staffing grant from the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office.

On Tuesday, an excessive heat emergency declaration for 25 counties, including Deschutes, was made by Governor Brown. 

Grants were made available under the state’s new wildfire protection measures enacted after the 2020 fires and provide funding for local fire staffing assistance for this wildfire season. 

Fire Chief Mike Supkis said fire districts like La Pine are struggling on a day-to-day basis with staffing to meet the rapidly growing demand for services. La Pine Fire/EMS crews are dual role also providing emergency paramedic services and transports – often taken them out of district 6 - 8 times a day.

"This supplemental fire staffing is imperative to insure effective initial fire attack and quick mutual aid on wildfires to catch them when they are small," Supkis said in a news release Wednesday.

In Central Oregon, the fire chief said, "federal, state, and local firefighters have a history of strong cooperation working toward fire-resilient landscapes and communities, along with very effective initial attack on wildfires. This was evident last Friday with the 26-acre Old Wood wildfire in the La Pine - Sunriver area that was quickly stopped."

The La Pine Fire District will be adding an additional fire crew this week during the state-declared emergency for excessive heat weather conditions. These firefighters will strengthen initial attack on any fires in the district, as well as improve mutual aid responses regionally. 

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