New dispatch center opens ahead of fire season

The remodeled space offers a much large room than the previous center and doubles the amount of dispatch stations.

Posted: May 24, 2018 6:56 PM
Updated: May 25, 2018 9:50 AM

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- Dispatchers who send crews to attack wildfires in Oregon now have a new center to work in.

The Eugene Interagency Communications Center is up and running. The remodeled space offers a much larger room than the previous center and doubles the amount of dispatch stations. 

Dispatch Center Manager Sherry Kessel said having more space is key, because the dispatchers monitor about three million acres of land and during fire season they keep track of up to 1,000 employees out on fires.

Dispatchers with the BLM's Northwest Oregon District and Willamette and Siuslaw National Forests all work at the Springfield center.

"Those are the ones talking to the field in all of this area, all of our radio frequencies cover this area, so we have different dispatchers assigned to each section each day. They are responsible for monitoring all the traffic for all of the employees," Kessel said. 

Along with sending out the first line of attack against wildfires, they also help with hazmat response and search and rescue.

Dispatchers map out where the incident is: "And then we would dispatch the closest available crew," said Lead Logistics Dispatcher Amy Harpole. That could be a fire engine, wildland fire crew, or a helicopter to drop off smokejumpers (firefighters who parachute into remote areas).

Harpole said the additional space and stations gives them a larger capacity for an emergency response.

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