CENTRAL POINT, Ore. – Today around 50 firefighters lit multiple grass fires near Central Point as a part of a grass fire simulation training.
For some of the firefighters this is their first time working with a real-life scenario.
“Today what we're doing is basically applying everything that the firefighters have been learning during fire school in the classroom, out in the field,” said Oregon Department of Forestry Information Officer, Melissa Cano, “They're getting that hands-on experience; making sure that everything they've learned over the past two weeks really clicks and make sense. For a lot of them, they are returning to us this fire season, however we do have a hand full of new folks and new-hires therefore this might be, for some of them, the first chance they actually get to fight a grass fire.”
The real-life simulation allows everyone to brush up on their skills and work through real-life issues that come up in the field.
“For the first year it’s like drinking from a fire hose there’s a lot of information that you learned and it comes at you fast we only have two weeks of fire school and then you’re out in the woods putting out the fires and responding to calls,” said third-year ODF firefighter, Tate Stevens, “It can be overwhelming but as you get more experience and more fires under your belt it becomes a lot easier.”
Before the training begins a containment line is dug around the perimeter of the 10-acre lot. Firefighters then begin setting fires and extinguishing them using different techniques.
“It’s so valuable to take everything that they’ve learned over the past two weeks and actually see it develop in front of them. For those that have never actually fought fire before it gives them a chance to not just work on getting to the fire but work on the different strategies and tactics that are going to help them be successful when the fire is growing and they have to actually treat it like a real initial attack response,” said Cano.
Fire supervisors take advantage of this time in a controlled setting to through out real-world situations such as a flat tire for crew members to respond to.
“One of them had a hose break and what would they do if they had a hose break?” explained Cano, “What would be the next step? Another one had a flat tire; what do you do if your engine has a flat tire? Who else is responding? How do you communicate that back and make sure that that group is out-of-the-way so the next incoming firefighters are ready to respond?”
Apart from working on technical skills, crews also take this time to practice communicating with other crews and dispatch.
“Communication is key, not just for the training but for the entirety of fire season,” explains Cano. “That first engine, those first eyes on the fire, it’s their duty to communicate back to dispatch and to all the rest of their crew what the fire looks like.
“The first thing is getting an initial fire size up,” said Stevens, “We’re relaying information back to our dispatch about the fire size, how big the flame length is, wind conditions, typography, that information lets everyone else know on the radio what’s going on what we see at the situation.”
This is the third year that the Oregon Department of Forestry has partnered with the Oregon Department of Transportation to allow hands-on training for ODF firefighters.
“We’re doing it in a partnership with ODOT, which is a great partnership because they like the fuels to be reduced to prevent big fires during fire season,” said Cano, “they want to make sure their land is taken care of and it provides us the chance to do that for them while training our new firefighters.”