Office of Emergency Management awards six Oregon fire districts with new high-axle, all-terrain vehicles for disaster preparedness

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To help their communities with disaster preparedness and response, the Office of Emergency Management has awarded six fire districts across the state with new high-axle, all-terrain vehicles. These life-saving resources are provided through the State Preparedness and Incident Response Equipment (SPIRE) Grant, which funds the purchase and distribution of equipment to be used during an emergency to decrease the risk for loss of life and property damage.

Aurora Fire District, Cannon Beach Fire District, Eugene Springfield Fire, Evans Valley Fire District #6, Hoodland Fire District #74 and Warrenton Fire Dept. have each received their own vehicle.

Warrenton Fire Dept. Division Chief of Training John Shepherd and Finance Director April Clark test out the new CORE Vehicle.
 

“Through state funding, the SPIRE Grant allows us to provide a wide variety of practical equipment that’s really vital to first response,” said OEM Director Andrew Phelps. “We know these resources will save lives and property during emergencies – be it catastrophic wildfires or flooding or a Cascadia earthquake and tsunami – by allowing for a more efficient response at the local level.” 

The road-legal vehicles can access flooded areas, navigate rugged terrain and perform water rescues; they can also serve as brush rigs to fight small grass fires and other types of small, outdoor fires. Recent flooding and wildfire conditions have increased the need for the vehicles, which are designed and manufactured locally in Bend by CORE (Commander Off-Road Equipment), a division of EarthCruiser. This video captures testing highlights of the EarthCruiser CORE Vehicle on extremely rugged and steep terrain with maximum weight added:

Testing highlights of the EarthCruiser CORE Vehicle on extremely rugged and steep terrain with maximum weight added.

“We’ve been working closely with Business Oregon to identify more local and regional companies, like EarthCruiser, that can serve as partners for procurement of the equipment,” said OEM Grants Coordinator Jim Jungling. “While it’s not always possible to buy local, we do prioritize it, both to support the economy and to save money on equipment delivery.” 

Five hours after its delivery, Evans Valley Fire District put its new rig into service for a fire call.

Evans Valley Fire District Fire Chief Travis Crume said the district will use the high-axle all-terrain vehicle for an all-hazards response, including rescues, evacuations and brush fires. “Its capability to cross rough terrain is remarkable and will allow us to reach victims quicker than ever before.”

Cannon Beach plans to utilize the new vehicle for multiple purposes, but since firefighters have easier beach access in Cannon Beach, Fire Chief Marc Reckmann said it will primarily serve as a brush rig running out of the Arch Cape Fire Station. The fire district plans to install a removable tank and pump system to the vehicle, as well as a water filtration system to pull from streams in the event of a water system failure.

Hoodland Fire District is working on a custom slip-on wildland firefighting unit that can be loaded and unloaded from the chassis with a forklift. The wildland firefighting unit will be a combination of a water tank, pump, plumbing and hose reel. The whole unit can be removed and traded out with original seating on the vehicle in minutes and meeting the requirements for the use of the vehicle for high water rescue in flooded areas. Division Chief Scott Kline said, “The acceptance of this vehicle is dual purpose, to augment our wildland firefighting capabilities and to provide assistance as needed throughout the State of Oregon for flood rescue.”

Warrenton Police Chief Mathew Workman said their CORE Vehicle will be used to help the community in the case of a tsunami or earthquake. “With any size tsunami, most of our city, including dozens of residential neighborhoods, will be inundated with water. This type of vehicle will allow us to perform rescue operations in those areas,” said Workman. “Similarly, during an earthquake, thousands of trees and utility poles will most likely topple and prevent standard-axle vehicles from traversing around town to perform rescue operations, whereas a high-axle vehicle would have a better chance of reaching the impacted areas.”

The SPIRE Grant Program equipped Clackamas Fire with a low-water rescue boat to increase response capabilities on the waters (credit Clackamas Fire).

Established by Oregon House Bill 2687 in 2017, a total of $5 million was made available in the grant’s first round, which awarded 81 pieces of equipment to 79 different awardees, strengthening the statewide response and recovery capability starting at the local level. In addition to the CORE Vehicles, available lifesaving equipment included generators, fuel tankers, big-water rescue boats, a low-water rescue boat, rescue jet skis, mass casualty trailers and water purification trailers.

Oregon legislature has funded the SPIRE Grant with $10 million for 2022-2023. The next grant round will open on or around March 1 and remain open for 90 days; it will offer similar equipment as before, with the addition of urban search and rescue equipment, morgue trailers and solar generators. Qualified applicants include any organization responsible for or containing expertise in emergency preparedness that is a local government, special government body or a private 501(c)(3) organization. Applicants can learn more by visiting https://www.oregon.gov/oem/emresources/Grants/Pages/Spire.aspx. OEM is here to help; for questions, please reach out to [email protected].

About Author

Chris Crabb is a Public Information Officer at the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, which coordinates and maintains a statewide emergency services system for emergency and disaster communications.

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