Creating connections for first responders battling Oregon’s Bootleg Fire

August 3, 2021

by Jason Porter - President, Public Sector and FirstNet Program at AT&T

Wildland fires continue to burn at all-time highs. More than 90 wildfires – accounting for 1.8+ million acres – are currently raging across the United States according to the National Interagency Fire Center. And Oregon’s Bootleg Fire has turned into the nation's largest active blaze, destroying more than 400 buildings and hundreds of vehicles.

With more than 1,000 first responders deployed – spanning agencies including Oregon Emergency Management, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, Lake Oswego Fire and more – the need for reliable, interoperable communications is vital. FirstNet®, Built with AT&T has deployed dedicated portable network assets (SatCOLTs) to provide fire fighters and other crew members with the dedicated connectivity and always-on priority communications they require.

Dedicated portable cell sites like FirstNet SatCOLTs help provide better situational awareness via applications, near real-time footage and communications. Plus, the added connectivity helps first responders catalog their efforts, plan and coordinate activities and reach their families during their down time.

“Staying connected on the ground during these kinds of wildfires is crucial,” said Bryan Greene, a firefighter for Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue that is currently supporting response efforts. “The coverage that we get from FirstNet allows us to have a better awareness of how the situation is changing at any given moment and gives us better peace of mind. We can stay connected to each other and our loved ones at home.”

First responders supporting the Bootleg Fire also got a visit from ROG the Dog, one of more than 30 trained labradoodles who specialize in therapy for first responders. Animal-assisted therapy has been proven successful for so many struggling with mental health challenges, and these canines will continue to answer the call and serve the public safety community on the front lines.

“Having ROG the Dog come in is great for our first responders because it helps bring in that home feeling and take their mind off of the high-stress of the fire,” said Rick Heuchert, Communications Unit Leader, Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal.

Beyond the massive Bootleg Fire, FirstNet continues to support wildfire response efforts across the country. FirstNet already covers 2.71 million square miles nationwide, but for missions in rural or remote areas, we’ve also deployed dozens of SatCOLTs across 10 states nationwide – including Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Washington. Because where public safety goes, we go. From the dedicated FirstNet fleet of 100+ portable assets to ROG the Dog, FirstNet is ready to Be There to support the well-being and connectivity needs of those who put their lives on the line each and every day – no matter the disaster or emergency.