Jackson County (OR) to Pay Consulting Firm to Study Response to Fires

Firefighter facing away with turnout gear

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — When the Almeda and Obenchain Fires hit, few Jackson County residents were notified about evacuation orders. Many were forced to flee with nothing but the clothes on their backs and no notification save for a knock on their door telling them it was time to leave.

While emergency officials rushed to respond to the fast-moving flames and to make sure residents were safe, there was also little to no communication with media outlets on the scale of the fire.

The lack of notification to evacuees as well as the lack of communication with media outlets throughout the disaster are just some of the items a private consulting firm will be paid $43,958.80 to review, KTVL News 10 reported.

“Our job will be to work with the county and all of the jurisdictions within to do a review of the wildfires and help them determine what are the best practices that emerged, what are the things they can do better moving forward and help them determine how they can deal with wildfires better in the future,” explained Bryan Koon, vice president of Innovative Emergency Management (IEM), the North Carolina-based firm the county contracted.

An 86-page contract and proposal between IEM and the county that News 10 obtained through records request notes that the review will examine “data and audio records” from the Emergency Communications of Southern Oregon (ECSO). It will look into communications sent from the Everbridge Notification System ( that should have notified residents of evacuation orders) as well as social media posts’.

“Analyzing the response communications, platforms used to disseminate information to the public and the message development process is essential for ensuring Jackson County continues to build readiness and resilience to respond to and recover from these disasters events,” IEM’s proposal notes.

Koon said the firm will conduct an ‘After-Action Review’ which will include conditions prior to the fires and how local agencies responded to them. The review will look at the response from the Cities of Central Point, Medford, Phoenix, Talent, Shady Cove, and Butte Falls. Within those jurisdictions, it will look at the response of each city manager, police and fire department during and after the fire.

The review will also look at the response from the Oregon State Police (OSP), Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), and ECSO.

“First thing we’ll do is read and review as much of the documentation, any of the reports that came out, the communication, the situation reports, and then you follow it up with doing lots of interviews,” Koon said. He explained every individual and agency viewed and reacted differently to the disaster, which is why the interviews will be needed to get a better overall understanding of their responses.

Koon said the firm will also look into how residents and animals were cared for and housed after the fires broke out.

“We will probably find some great things that emerged, some best practices, and there will probably be a few gaps that the county and jurisdictions within can work on in the future,” Koon said.

He specified that the review will not be an investigation into the cause of the fire, but a detailed report of what the county can learn from and improve for future disasters.

“We know there is going to be more wildfires in the future and certainly that is something you should take a look at, is how do you prevent future forest fires, but we are looking at it as a more organizational response effort and how you deal with them once they occur,” he explained.

At the end of the review, the firm will put together a final report and will present its findings to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.

Koon said he estimates the review will take up to four months, though the contract allows for up to six months.

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