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Volunteers Prepare for Fire Disaster

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ASHLAND, Ore. – As wildfire season approaches, Ashland emergency volunteers are training in how to respond.

Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and members of the public took part in an advanced course with fire and medical officials today.

As community members prepare for disaster, fire officials say it couldn’t come at a better time.

“We’re anticipating, in the absence of more significant precipitation, having an early start to our fire season and ultimately a more intense fire season,” said Ashland Fire Chief John Karns.

That hot dry weather means an especially big role for an organization that is already a big asset in times of disaster.

“CERT as a whole is very important in Southern Oregon because honestly we don’t have the depth of first responder resources to really satisfy all the demands on an emergency scene,” said Karns.

Attendees at today’s training learned the basics of command structure — who gives the orders and who is in charge of doing what.

They also learned how to put together an organized medical response – using teddy bears as victims.

“This is a really unique training, and it’s great for the public as well as our members,” said CERT Program Coordinator Terri Eubanks. “They’re getting a little bit of everything.”

And it’s all thanks to a FEMA grant. Ashland is the only city in the Rogue Valley to get FEMA dollars to put on optional training courses this year.

It allows them to go above and beyond the two basic training courses normally given annually.

“Disasters are ever-occurring,” said Eubanks. “We never know when we’re going to have a huge earthquake here or a big flood event again or even a drought that can turn into a major disaster.”

Officials say that preparedness means if the time does come, they’ll be ready.

“The organization is very strong, very well-defined, and allows for folks to come in and have a clear understanding of what their responsibilities are,” said Karns.