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'Fire and Ice' program has Oregon's wildland firefighters working winter roads

An ongoing partnership between ODF and ODOT allows the two agencies to share staff in their respective busy and slow seasons.

Posted: Nov 29, 2021 10:57 AM
Updated: Nov 29, 2021 5:29 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. — For the Oregon Department of Forestry's wildland firefighters, summer is showtime and winter is a slow time — but for their comrades at the Oregon Department of Transportation, the seasons are flipped. As a result, the two agencies partner up on a joint staffing program known as "Fire and Ice," sharing staff when they're needed.

The program has been going on since the 1980s, with the goal of retaining experienced employees while providing opportunities in career advancement, leadership, and relationship building.

“’Fire and Ice’ showcases the partnership between ODOT and ODF,” said ODOT Interim District 8 Manager Jeremiah Griffin. “It benefits everyone — especially our local communities —because we’re able to keep experienced staff year around between both agencies in highly specialized positions.”

The positions covered by the program respond to dangerous situations in extreme conditions no matter the season, and Griffin says that it's ideal to have consistency season to season and year to year. Right now, the program gives ODOT much-needed hands as they suffer from a shortage in staff needed to maintain roadways.

Nine ODF firefighters are working as winter road maintenance specialists this winter, covering jobs from driving snowplows to operating equipment that de-ices or sands roadways. In late spring, these firefighters will return to ODF to resume fire suppression work in Jackson and Josephine counties.

“We rely heavily on our seasonal workforce in the summer months to bolster our firefighting capabilities,” said Tyler McCary, Acting ODF Southwest Oregon District Forester. “While we’re continuing to work toward additional year-round positions, our partnership with ODOT and the ‘Fire & Ice’ program is an excellent opportunity to provide continuous work to our employees in a cost-effective way to the district, and ultimately, taxpayers.”

Though the firefighters currently working with ODOT will help to bridge the staffing gap, state officials warn that the shortage could still result in longer timeframes for clearing roads, so travelers are encouraged to plan accordingly.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 590270

Reported Deaths: 5953
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah97106944
Washington71639465
Marion57369570
Clackamas51367461
Lane46136397
Deschutes38929226
Jackson35599418
Linn21339221
Umatilla20036190
Douglas16606324
Yamhill14371169
Josephine13575291
Polk12394115
Benton1177246
Klamath11734179
Coos8765129
Malheur715896
Columbia616267
Jefferson598371
Lincoln550962
Crook487262
Union428165
Wasco412950
Clatsop380137
Tillamook300154
Hood River293039
Baker278540
Curry266541
Morrow264126
Grant141018
Harney133335
Lake117223
Wallowa102013
Sherman2703
Gilliam2394
Wheeler1722
Unassigned00

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Reported Deaths: 78798
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Los Angeles251977828507
San Diego6788794566
Riverside5538325661
San Bernardino5312966281
Orange5285305970
Santa Clara2707802005
Sacramento2571612624
Alameda2250151583
Fresno2094302430
Kern2030661974
Contra Costa1694961092
Ventura1619651261
San Joaquin1530831959
Stanislaus1192851521
San Francisco114106704
Tulare1110101219
San Mateo106229647
Santa Barbara76208590
Monterey72854654
Sonoma71321432
Solano70902400
Placer60385518
Merced58766730
Imperial54251824
San Luis Obispo47086386
Kings45237397
Santa Cruz38399237
Madera34397336
Butte33592350
Yolo33229273
Marin31618253
Shasta31403515
El Dorado25497179
Napa21682111
Sutter19031200
Humboldt16139129
Yuba14524103
Nevada14357112
Tehama12538145
Mendocino12437113
San Benito1163591
Unassigned109613
Tuolumne1049191
Lassen899459
Lake8946118
Amador730973
Calaveras626695
Siskiyou587264
Glenn563639
Del Norte451843
Inyo395550
Colusa392621
Mono28914
Plumas252812
Mariposa243719
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