Contacts: Jennifer Velez, (503)298-8190
Willamette National Forest
Cynthia Orlando, (503)945-7421
Oregon Department of Forestry
(Sweet Home, OR) For the 16th 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 in Sweet Home. The week-long classroom and field-based training event is designed to prepare new firefighters for the rigors of battling blazes, both in Oregon's forests and in the rural-urban interface.
The interagency school takes place Monday, June 25th - Friday, June 29th at Sweet Home High School. Approximately 200 trainees from a variety of agencies across western Oregon including the Willamette, Siuslaw, Umpqua, and Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forests, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, and Oregon Department of Forestry are participating.
"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., is providing us with a new field site along Mark's Ridge," he added. "Field exercises greatly enhance the students' training experience - working in smoke, hiking through uneven terrain, and working closely with crew members to dig fireline are all things they'll experience this season as wildland firefighters."
Classes and Field Exercises
Trainees spend the first part of the week in an intensive classroom setting that includes several field sessions. Courses offered this year include beginning and intermediate fire behavior; communications; teamwork; leadership development; fireline safety; use of engines, tools and hose lays; 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 29th 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 improves communications and builds effective relationships for the agencies to draw on during fire season.
"Safety is paramount in every aspect of wildland firefighting, and it begins with our training exercises," said Hiebert. "We stress the importance of everyone working together to do the best job they can do to protect people and the places that communities value by suppressing wildfires."
Note to Media:
We require 24 hour notice of your intent to participate as all media must be accompanied by an agency escort and have personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE includes Nomex pants, a long-sleeve Nomex shirt, leather gloves, a hard hat, eye protection, a fire shelter, and leather boots with vibram soles.
Agency PPE (excluding leather boots) will be available for media to borrow; please contact Jennifer Velez at (503)298-8190 to make arrangements.