The nugget. (Sisters, Or.) 1994-current, January 09, 2019, Page 17, Image 17

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    Wednesday, January 9, 2019 The Nugget Newspaper, Sisters, Oregon        17
FIRE TRAINING: Three
departments worked 
through “sets”
Continued from page 1
them  and  somebody  said, 
‘why don’t you talk to the fire 
district about doing a burn,’” 
he  said.  From  his  perspec-
tive, the idea was appealing 
because, “the bottom line is 
there’s less stuff to haul off.”
Incident Commander Tim 
Craig, deputy chief in Sisters, 
said that the district jumped 
at  the  opportunity,  which 
doesn’t come around all that 
often. Craig believes that
such exercises are superior to 
training in a simulator or steel 
container mock-up.
“There are other ways,”
he said. “But this is the best 
way in my opinion, because 
we’re putting fire in an actual 
house.”  With  simulators, 
“you don’t get the same type 
of  hose  movement  and  that 
sort of thing…”
The  training  is  valuable 
for veterans and greenhorns
alike.
“We  don’t  get  a  lot  of 
working  structure  fires,  so 
some of our volunteers could 
go  years  without  seeing  an 
active fire,” Craig said. “So
getting them exposed to this 
on  a  regular  basis  is  really 
important.”
Sisters  Fire  Chief  Roger 
Johnson  concurred  on  the 
superiority  of  training  in  a 
real house versus a purpose-
built training facility.
“The  fire’s  trying  to  get 
into  the  attic  and  we’re  try-
ing to keep it out of the attic, 
so  there’s  a  lot  of  realistic 
(elements)  you  don’t  get 
in  a  built  environment,”  he 
said.
Multiple  teams  of  fire-
fighters  were  run  through 
multiple “sets” before the fire 
was allowed to consume each 
building — one on Saturday 
and one on Sunday.
Trainees  confirmed  the 
value of the realistic training.
Volunteer  Sisters  fire-
fighter Mike Terwilliger — a
physical  therapist  by  trade 
— was on his first operation. 
He rotated through different 
positions  on  the  hose,  from 
the nozzle to second and third 
in  line,  where  he  could  see 
flames roll over his head.
Working  the  nozzle  was 
“difficult  because  it’s  such 
a  small  space  and  so  much 
pressure  coming  out  of  the 
hose. You have to be careful.”
He said that conditions
were “warmer than expected; 
smokier  than  expected. 
The  videos  just  don’t  do  it 
justice.”
He  also  noted  that  using 
the  breathing  apparatus  is 
very  different  when  you’re 
in the thick of a firefight than
when you’re in a calm prac-
tice environment.
Ben  Duda  has  fought 
wildfire  with  the  Oregon 
Department of Forestry for a 
couple of decades. He started 
volunteering  with  the  local 
fire  department,  and  this 
was  his  first  structure-fire 
training.
“I’ve  always  had  a  lot 
of  respect  for  these  guys 
(structure  firefighters),”  he 
said. “And over the last few
months, it’s tripled.”
Fighting fire in a dark,
smoky  structure  is very dif-
ferent  from  wildland  fire-
fighting,  which  is,  as  Duda 
noted,  “100  percent  venti-
lated.” Heat builds up quickly 
in a confined space.
“We’re on our hands and 
knees;  we’re  shoulder-to-
shoulder  with  the  partner 
you’ve  been  training  with,” 
he said.
He noted that there are bits
and pieces of the training that 
he will take back to his wild-
land firefighting crews, who
often have to interface with
structure  protection  crews 
on wildfires that threaten
communities.
Duda was impressed with 
the level of coordination and
communication  among  and 
within  each  of  the  depart-
ments  involved  in  the  exer-
cise — coordination that is
crucial when confronting the 
real thing.
“Knowing  all  the  pieces 
are  in  place  (is)  amazing,” 
Duda  said.  “It  makes  the 
undoable  doable,  it  seems 
like.”
The  pieces  are  not  just 
the  men  and  women  on  the 
hose. There are lots of super-
visory eyes on the exercise
making sure that everyone is 
accounted for and that safety 
protocols are being observed. 
And the comfort of the fire-
fighters is also taken into
account. The all-day exercise 
was supported by volunteers 
from the Sisters Fire Corps, 
who provided lunches, water 
and other support.
“They’re  just  incredibly 
dedicated  community  mem-
bers,”  Craig  said.  “Without 
them, this would be a much 
more difficult operation.”
Safety of firefighters and
the  community  is  the  para-
mount  concern  in  planning 
such  an  operation.  Weeks 
of  planning  and  preparation 
went into the exercise. Chief
Johnson noted that there is an 
extensive procedure involved 
in  making  sure  hazardous 
materials are out of the build-
ing and to get it cleared to
burn.  Careful  planning  and 
organization ensures that the 
training  environment  stays 
safe, even though it involves 
fire,  smoke  and  a  structure 
that is being deliberately
weakened.
“There’s zero tolerance for 
death and injury in training,” 
Deputy  Chief  Craig  empha-
sized.  “Zero  tolerance. And 
there’s  a  high  risk  of  injury 
and  death  any  time  you’re 
dealing with fire, so it’s very 
stressful.”
That  said,  though,  it  was 
clear on the scene that fire-
fighters  from  students  to 
veterans were having a great
time honing their skills in an 
environment that is as close 
to the real thing as they can
safely get.
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