Four Brainerd firefighters left for Oregon, Tuesday, Sept. 15, to help protect structures threatened by wildfires across the state.
Minnesota sent two teams out west with a Brainerd fire engine, Fire Chief Tim Holmes told the Brainerd City Council Monday, Sept. 14, after a budget workshop. The firefighters will first head to Salem for a 14-day deployment and will check in with fire coordinators as they get closer to learn where they will be working.
Brainerd’s crew is among 29 Minnesota firefighters and nine trucks traveling to Salem, according to a news release from Gov. Tim Walz’s office. The authorization follows a request from Oregon officials through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.
“Wildfires continue to put our fellow Americans’ lives at risk while devastating homes, businesses, and communities,” Walz said in the news release. “The Minnesota fire service is known for stepping up in critical situations, putting their lives on the line to save others. I am proud of the way they’ve answered this call to serve. My thoughts are with the residents of Oregon, California, and Washington during this harrowing time.”
Oregon officials requested 10 fire task forces from around the country to help with response efforts. Minnesota’s two task forces consist of firefighters and trucks from Brainerd, Fisher, Bemidji, Eden Prairie, Motley, Crosslake and Spring Lake Park/Blaine/Mounds View fire departments.
Holmes said he offered the opportunity to all his firefighters, and the ones who are going were able to get time off from other jobs and rearrange schedules to make it work.
“I think it’s important that we help each other out when we can because I guess you never know when we may be asking for help, too — either us specifically or the state of Minnesota,” Holmes said. “So extending that reach out and having those good relationships makes it a lot easier in the future if we do need help.”
It will also be a great learning experience for the firefighters, Holmes said, as they’ll learn from other departments and from the different type of fire and climate on the West Coast. Then they’ll bring that experience back to Brainerd.
The Emergency Management Assistance Compact is a mutual aid agreement between all 50 states. A requesting state asks for resources based on their needs, and while any state can respond, there is no obligation to participate. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Homeland Security and Emergency Management division coordinates requests.
The city of Brainerd will not incur any cost, with reimbursements coming from the mutual aid agreement, Holmes said.