For five days new fire fighters camped and trained outside of Bly, learning valuable skills at Guard School to be applied during what is expected to be a busy summer fire season.
During June 16-20 new fire fighters, 48 in total, along with instructors and support staff went through the rigors of learning basic survival and fire-fighting skills needed to effectively work with fire crews this summer.
Featuring new hires covering the whole South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership (SCOFMP) area, the camp included crew members of Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Department of Forestry and Fremont-Winema National Forest.
Classroom and practical field settings taught fire fighting basics from experienced fire fighters such as the different tools used, how to deploy emergency fire shelters, mop-up duty and digging a fire line.
At the conclusion of the camp instructors set several small controlled fires so that the students could implement the skills gained in a real wildfire situation.
Crews were intentionally mixed among the various agencies, with an experienced fire fighter acting as supervisor for each team.
Upon completion of camp the 48 students were designated as FFT2, or Fire Fighter Trained Level 2, making them certified for fighting wildfires. Many in the camp were fresh from high school graduation, pursuing a summer job before college.
“Some say they will be here just for a summer job, but then they return each year because they enjoyed the experience so much,” said Kevin Abel, public affairs officer for Lakeview District BLM. “The purpose is to get them as much experience here before doing it for real.”
Each fire fighter was assigned a PPE pack (personal protective equipment) and red bag (tent, clothing, toiletries), the same equipment used when dispatched on a real fire line with an emphasis on safety and mobility.
Classes were given on the kinds of tools and their uses, comprised of various combinations of different types of axes, shovels, rakes and picks. The tools are usually nicknamed after the fire fighter that originally designed them, acquiring unique titles such as Pulaskis, McClouds, McClaskeys, and Combis.
After completing training each fire fighter was dispatched to their assigned units throughout central Oregon for the summer fire season, where more training and assimilation is underway for their specific assignment.
Training on saw use, pumps, engines, helicopter crew, smoke-jumping and setting prescribed fires are typical of the further schooling now underway for the rookies, while now being active duty fire fighters ready to be dispatched at a moment’s notice to a new fire.
As of June 16, crews had already been dispatched to 56 fires throughout the SCOFMP area.
For video highlights of Guard School visit the Examiner’s youtube channel or www.lakecountyexam.com.