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Wildland firefighter school begins next week in Sweet Home

Contacts:
Cynthia Orlando, Oregon Department of Forestry, 503.945.7421
Judith McHugh, U.S. Forest Service, 541-915-5372
 
 
For the 10th consecutive year, forestry 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 the Grand Ronde are hosting an interagency Fire School to prepare new firefighters for the rigors of fighting fire, both in Oregon's forests and in rural-urban interface areas. Classes begin on Monday and continue throughout the week.
 
This intensive training – so essential to the safety and effectiveness of fire crews as they battle blazes during fire season – is an opportunity for members of the media to observe firefighting, initial attack, fire safety protocol, various tasks involved in fire suppression, and take photos or film clips.
 
"The main purpose of fire school is to provide basic wildland fire training skills to new firefighters, and give continuing training to returning firefighters," said Incident Commander Ted Erdmann, Oregon Department of Forestry.
 
"I'm really excited about this year's school. It's filled to capacity, and I think that's a great reflection of what happens when federal and state agencies really pool their resources together for the common benefit."
 
More than 200 trainees from a variety of agencies across the state - including the Willamette, Siuslaw, and Umpqua National Forests, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, and Oregon Department of Forestry - will be in attendance. The interagency school takes place June 22 through Friday June 26 at Sweet Home High School, 1920 Long Street, Sweet Home.
 
Classes, then a field exercise
Trainees spend the first part of the week in a classroom setting. Classes this year include basic fire behavior, map and compass use, teamwork, safety, use of engines, tools and hose lays, fighting fire in the rural-urban interface, and fire investigation. Students sleep in tents at the school and eat their meals communally, giving them a taste of a real fire camp. Then, the five-day course culminates in a live fire exercise Friday June 26, designed to test the skills acquired during the week.
 

The June 26 exercise provides trainees with the final challenge: applying their newly acquired skills to suppress and mop-up a real fire.
 
Co-Incident Commanders ("IC’s") Paul Hiebert, Willamette National Forest, Sweet Home, and Ted Erdmann, Oregon Department of Forestry, Philomath, have more than 49 firefighting years between them. Both see fire school as an opportunity to train firefighters in both tactical skills and safety.
 
"During the field exercise it’s a great opportunity for students to apply not only the fire suppression skills they’ve learned in class, but also all of the wildland fire safety principles," said Hiebert. Safety principles include wearing protective gear, being on the lookout for hazards and maintaining proper spacing amongst workers.
 
Note to Media:
This opportunity offers access to both trainee and experienced firefighters as they prepare for the 2009 fire season. However, 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.
 
Personal protective equipment includes Nomex pants, long sleeve Nomex shirt, gloves, hard hat, and boots with vibram soles.

 
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