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News Release
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2024 Mid-Willamette Valley Interagency Wildland Fire School begins June 24 in Sweet Home, Oregon (Photo) - 06/17/24

(Sweet Home, OR) Approximately 170 wildland firefighters and instructors will convene in Sweet Home during the last week of June to take part in the annual five day Mid-Willamette Valley Interagency Wildland Fire School. Officials from the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), and US Fish and Wildlife Service host the yearly training to prepare new firefighters for the rigors of fighting fire, both in Oregon's forests and in rural-urban interface areas.

Co-Incident Commanders Chris Mushrush, Fire Planner for Northwest Oregon Interagency Fire Management, and Craig Pettinger, District Forester for ODF South Cascade District, are leading the effort to train firefighters in tactical skills and safety.

“Fire School provides crucial education and training in wildland fire to new firefighters and gives veteran firefighters a chance to refresh their skills and explore leadership opportunities. It’s also an important opportunity to strengthen interagency ties and collaboration." said Mushrush. 

Trainees will learn about fire behavior, suppression tactics, weather, map and compass use, teamwork, leadership, safety, use of engines, tools and hose lays, and fire investigation. In order to get a taste of life in a real fire camp students will sleep in tents at Sweet Home High School and eat their meals in a group.

The training culminates with a live fire exercise on Friday, June 28 just outside of Sweet Home. This presents trainees with a final challenge: applying their newly acquired skills and techniques to suppress and mop-up a real fire.

“Cascade Timber Consulting, a local forest landowner, provides a new field site each year and we are very grateful,” added Pettinger. “The live fire exercise provides an invaluable training experience – working in smoke, hiking through uneven terrain, and working closely with crew members to dig fireline - these are all things they’ll experience this season as wildland firefighters.”

Safety principles of fire training include wearing protective gear, safe use of tools and looking out for hazards. “Safety is paramount in every aspect of wildland firefighting, and it begins with our training exercises,” continued Pettinger. “Working together in a collaborative training setting improves communications and builds effective relationships for all agencies to draw on during fire season."

This year, the field site that will be used for the live fire exercise is located north of Foster Lake approximately 2 miles northeast of Sweet Home. Fire officials urge the public to use caution as there will be increased fire traffic in the area and the potential for visible smoke on Friday, June 28. 

Note to Media: 
This opportunity offers access to both trainee and experienced firefighters as they prepare for the 2024 fire season. Media is required to provide advance notice of your intent to participate, as all media must be accompanied by an agency escort and have personal protective equipment. Please RSVP to Jessica Neujahr by June 26.
 
Personal protective equipment includes Nomex pants, long sleeve Nomex shirt, gloves, hard hat, eye protection, and boots with Vibram soles. Protective equipment (excluding leather boots) may be available for media to borrow by contacting Jessica Neujahr with ODF.

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