When a wildfire swept through the Clacksamas County town of Clackamsack, Oregon in February 2016, the local fire department had no idea how many people were living in the homes at the time.
That wasn’t unusual.
Firefighters were often understaffed and undertrained.
As a result, Clackasack is still home to some of the most dangerous and isolated wildfires in the country, with an estimated 1,000 people still living there.
And while the fire burned for six months, no one was killed or injured, but the number of people who lived there grew by about 700 people in the six months after the blaze.
By June, the Clackedamas County Sheriff’s Office had a staff of 1,500 and had issued about 2,000 fire-related citations.
The department was also able to issue nearly 2,100 citations for illegal camping.
In the last three years, the county has issued about 8,500 citations for camping.
But the number has steadily increased since then, and now the ClackyClackamas department has more than 1,600 fire-fighting personnel on the job, according to the Clackleamas County Fire Protection District.
The fire-prevention services bureau has more staff than the department in any other county in the state.
It is also able, thanks to a new state law, to issue more citations for the same number of fires.
In fact, the bureau has issued more citations than it did in 2016.
But those new citations have increased the number at which Clackassas County fires were being cited in the first place.
There are so many fires in Clackascas and Clackahas County that fire-fighters have to issue hundreds of citations a day.
When it comes to fires, fire protection is more than just firefighting.
“The department needs to be able to respond to all types of fire, not just the ones that cause the most damage,” says Clackasa County Fire Marshal Brian Hickey.
In 2017, the department issued more than $1 million in citations for fire-safe structures, including water hydrants, smoke detectors, fire hoses, fire suppression equipment, fire fighting equipment, and fire fighting structures.
It also issued nearly $1.5 million for fire prevention equipment, including fire hosing systems, fire extinguishers, and smoke detectors.
This is the first year Clackalas County has issued a total of over 1,400 fire-safety citations in the past three years.
“We’re getting more citations and more citations are coming in, and it’s making our firefighting department less efficient and less effective,” says Hickey, adding that he thinks more citations will result in a decrease in the number and severity of fire-protection violations issued.
As the Clixas fire continued to grow in size, the fire department began to realize the need to expand the fire-suppression resources they had, Hickey says.
“So in 2018, we did expand our operations, and we’ve seen some of that come from the fire suppression, but also from the other services that we have in the county, including the fire and ambulance services.”
It is the same kind of response, Hike says, that has seen the Clickas County Fire Department increase its staffing by more than 50 percent since the last fire in 2018.
In January 2019, the year the Clutzas County fire began, the chief of the department sent out a news release touting the department’s success in managing the Clashas fire and its response.
“As the fire continued and the threat of the fire growing, the resources that we had available to us were more limited, but our efforts to maintain safety and maintain order and maintain containment in this fire were very important to the people of Clutzassas,” said the release.
“That being said, the success of our response was not in a vacuum.
We did all we could to get the fire under control and to keep everyone safe.”
Clackapas County firefighters are also able and willing to put in the work to help reduce the number, severity, and number of fire incidents that occur in the community.
As of late June, more than 200 fires had been reported in Clacksas County, which has more people living there than any other part of Oregon.
But it’s not all firefighting that is needed to keep the Clakas County region safe.
A few months after that news release, the sheriff’s office announced that it would be conducting a review of the agency’s fire-risk assessments, and Clapas county residents were invited to participate in that review.
The sheriff’s staff is now reviewing the reports and other information that the agency received during that time period.
The office says it has received more than 600 comments from the public and the public has given the department positive feedback.
But there’s still more work to be done, H