Prior to 1997 much discussion had taken place over the years revolving around creating an Interagency Dispatch Center in Medford. At the time the Rogue River NF had their center at the Medford Fire Center/ATB, the Medford Unit of ODF had their center at ODF HQ on Table Rock and the Medford District BLM had their dispatch operation at the Medford BLM compound on Biddle Road. While no studies were ever completed, the three participating agencies felt there could be some benefits from such a program.
In January 1997, Ira Rambo was contracted by the Oregon Department of Forestry (with input and sideboards from BLM and FS partners) to complete an Interagency Dispatch study.
Four alternatives were developed from this study:
- Remain as is
- Combine those agencies responsible for dispatching initial attack, extended attack and providing expanded dispatch functions (ODF and RRF)
- Combine federal agencies into one dispatch center (RRF and MED)
- Combine federal agencies and ODF in one dispatch center
Facility options and organization options were all considered.
October 1998, the Southwest Oregon Coordination Group (SWOCG) tasked Margueritte Root, Darlene Rambo and Phil Cardin to take the findings from the 1997 study and:
- Develop several organizational structures to accomplish the tasks of an interagency dispatch center
- Recommend preferred radio console system and number of stations
- Recommend preferred organizational structure
- Recommend preferred organizational structure for an interagency oversight committee
This group also went on to look at other issues such as equality in pay structure, critical move dates, and what would be required for office space for such organizations. They presented their findings to the SWOCG in January 1999.
In December 2000, with input from the study in 1997 and the task group work in 1999, the SWOCG made the determination that for the time being that the two federal agencies (FS and BLM) would move in 2001 to become one dispatch center. The decision was to move the Medford BLM operation to the present Medford Fire Center/ATB, as there was space available and adequate communications systems in place. In March 2001 Mike Hannan (Lead Dispatcher, BLM) joined Phil Cardin (Dispatch Coordinator, USFS) at the Medford Fire Center and thus began the Medford Interagency Communication Center. In the spring of 2001 two dispatcher positions were filled (Carla Thompson – BLM and Jim Short – FS Detailer) to round out the core staff.
In the summer of 2001, because of the uncertainty of funding for the Medford Airtanker Base, the two federal agencies began the process of acquiring funding for a new location and construction of a new dispatch center. Funding was allocated and the BLM took the lead on engineering and contract administration of the new center. Construction began in September 2002 and was completed in February 2003. The Dispatch Staff (Cardin, Hannan, & Thompson) moved into the new Medford Interagency Communication Center in March 2003. In late spring 2003, Nicky Webb-Smith replaced Carla Thompson and Kent Dowding was hired to fill the FS vacancy. While the two federal agencies are the ones in place, this center was built to a standard that can house all three agencies should ODF choose to. In July 2004 Phil Cardin retired, closing out 32 years of meritorious service, and Mike Hannan took on the role of acting Center Manager.