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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Interagency Fire School trains western Oregon firefighters

For the 15th consecutive year, fire management officials from the U.S. Forest Service, Oregon Department of Forestry, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde are hosting an interagency Fire School. The week-long classroom and field-based training session is designed to prepare new firefighters for the rigors of battling blazes, both in Oregon's forests and in rural-urban interface areas.

"Fire School provides essential training in wildland fire for new firefighters and gives career firefighters a chance to refresh their skills and explore leadership opportunities," said Co-Incident Commander Ed Keith, Sweet Home Unit Forester with the Oregon Department of Forestry. "A nearby forest landowner, Cascade Timber Consulting, Inc., has agreed to let us use one of their harvest units as a field site," he added. "The terrain and vegetation found at the site will greatly enhance the students' training experience."

Approximately 200 trainees from a variety of agencies across western Oregon including four National Forests - the Willamette, Siuslaw, Umpqua, and Rogue River-Siskiyou, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, and Oregon Department of Forestry will be in attendance. The interagency school takes place Monday, June 20th through Friday, June 24th at Sweet Home High School.

Trainees spend the first part of the week in an intensive classroom setting that includes several field sessions. Courses being offered this year include basic fire behavior; communications; teamwork; leadership development; fireline safety; use of engines, tools and hose lays; fire in the rural-urban interface; and fire investigation. Students sleep in tents in the school yard and eat their meals together, giving them a taste of what it's like to be in a real fire camp. The five-day course culminates in a live fire exercise on Friday, June 24th where they can apply and develop their newly acquired skills and knowledge by suppressing and mopping-up a real fire.

Co-Incident Commanders Paul Hiebert, Fire Management Officer for the Detroit and Sweet Home Ranger Districts of the Willamette National Forest, and Ed Keith with the Oregon Department of Forestry, have more than 40 years of firefighting experience between them. Both see Fire School as an engaging and collaborative way to train firefighters in tactical skills and safety. Working together in a training setting helps improve communications and builds effective relationships for the agencies to draw on during fire season.

"Wildland fire safety principles are always at the forefront of our training exercises," said Hiebert. "The live fire simulation helps students gain familiarity with working in a fire setting while applying newly learned skills such as how to construct fireline with a pulaski and use water pumps to cool off smoldering stumps and logs. The students also get to experience the interagency coordination that occurs during incident response."

For more information, please contact Public Information Officers Jennifer O'Leary, (503) 298-8190, or Cynthia Orlando, (503) 945-7421. News media interested in covering the event must contact the event Public Information Officers to receive additional instructions.

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The purpose of this blog is to provide breaking news about wildfire activity on the forestlands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry. We invite you to post questions or comments about current wildfires. Please keep your posts civil and free of profanity.

Current wildfire info

National weather forecasters predictions that Oregon would see above average temperatures and below average rainfall in the summer of 2018 proved true. Almost all of Oregon was abnormally dry this summer, with a majority of the state in moderate to severe drought. Many areas posted record high temperatures or record strings of hot days. These conditions set the stage for potentially large, fast-moving wildfires.

What we do

Protection jurisdiction
The Oregon Dept. of Forestry protects 16 million acres of private and public forestlands from wildfire. This includes all private forestlands in Oregon as well as state and local government-owned forests, along with 2.8 million acres of federal Bureau of Land Management lands in the western part of the state. In total there are about 30.4 million acres of forest in Oregon.

Fire suppression policy
The department fights fire aggressively, seeking to put out most fires at 10 acres or smaller. This approach minimizes damage to the timber resource and fish and wildlife habitat, and protects lives and property. It also saves money. While suppressing large fires can cost millions of dollars, economic and environmental damage from wildfires can be many times greater.


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Oregon Dept. of Forestry's public information officers in Salem, Ore., maintain this blog. During the wildfire season, we spend much of our time reporting on fires and firefighting to news media and the public.