SALEM, Ore. — More than 400 members of the Oregon National Guard completed either first-time or refresher training on wildland firefighting methods over the past several weeks, in preparation for possible deployment to fire lines this summer.
While the National Guard and the Oregon Department of Forestry have a long-standing agreement — Operation Plan Smokey, which is renewed annually — to bring in Guard soldiers to assist on major wildfires, federal funding used this year helped to train those soldiers ahead of time.
"This will allow these wildland firefighter trained citizen-soldiers and citizen-airmen to be activated and deployed much faster should the need arise for their assistance," the Oregon Dept. of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) said in a statement.
The "red card" training took place at the Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem, combining both classroom and hands-on sessions for "safe and effective" wildland firefighting methods.
More than 175 Guard members completed their firefighter refresher course last weekend, and 250 more finished the full week-long program on Friday.
"DPSST is honored to help support this important mission and has a proven record of success in training over 1,000 members of the Guard for wildland firefighting duties over the past five years," said agency director Eriks Gabliks. "We value and appreciate the partnership we enjoy with the Oregon National Guard."
National Guard troops assisted with wildfires in John Day and Enterprise in 2015, and during 2017 on the High Cascades Complex, Chetco Bar, Blanket Creek, Horse Prairie, and Milli fires.
In 2018, more than a hundred National Guard members deployed in southern Oregon to support firefighting efforts on the Garner Complex fires.