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Crews Train for Wildfires in Grants Pass

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GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Officials say current fire conditions in southern Oregon aren’t typically seen until late July. Now that fire danger has moved to high, Rogue Valley Task Force 1 continues wildfire training.

Red tape marks the path of a simulated fast moving fire in a Grants Pass neighborhood.

“We came over, we were first on scene. We looked up, had brief amounts of fire and started deploying a hose pack,” said Illinois Valley Firefighter Justin Lewin.

In this scenario it’s 100 degrees in late July with strong winds moving in. Lewin said it may be a drill, but crews are responding as if several acres are already on fire.

“We had no idea how far that line of fire was going to spread up there. It was several hundred feet further than it appeared to be when we arrived,” said Lewin.

Multiple scenarios were run through during Tuesday’s training and Lewin said working on communication with other agencies already paid off.

“Then we blew another hose on our line, so we had to stop and re-do that. So, it was a lot of fun. Rural Metro really picked up the slack on that one for the blown hoses off our line,” said Lewin.

Five fire departments make up the task force which often are the first to respond to wildfires near homes.

“We play the role of initial attack. We partner in with O.D.F. – the Oregon Department of Forestry – they typically come in and handle more of the wild land and we work on structure protection,” said Battalion Chief for Grants Pass fire and Rescue, Tim DeLisle.

The training was the first of its kind for the task force in getting all departments together at once for hands on work. Fire officials said they’re expecting to either be sent out to other areas or need to call for back-up themselves.

“It absolutely could happen here, so it’s good to be able to train in these areas right around our own city,” said DeLisle.

The wildfire training will continue for two more days, and fire officials urge residents to have defensible space around their home and to make sure they’re ready for fire season.