Pamplin Media Group – Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue conducts training and talks ahead of wildfire season

In the fallout from the historically destructive 2020 wildfire season, preparation remains paramount as the first major heatwave of the season looms.

As wildfires ravaged the West Coast in late summer 2020, Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue fought their own battle locally.

Flames decimated more than 700 acres on Chehalem Mountain-Bald Peak, but not a single home or life succumbed to the blaze – a crucial feat attributed to the dedication and extensive training of area fire crews.

The historically destructive 2020 wildfire season has prompted the state of Oregon and its communities to review and adapt their approach, said Stefan Myers, public affairs manager for TVF&R.

To help prepare firefighters for wildfires, TVF&R hosted a hands-on wildfire training session in late May. With the first major heat wave of the season approaching this weekend, it should pay off.

“We were really happy with it,” Myers said of the event. “We were able to get over 400 firefighters through. Wilsonville, Forest Grove and some neighboring departments came to train with us.”

The training site, provided by the Oregon Department of Forestry, was mountainous, strewn with heavy timber and filled with multiple fuel sources – the type of environment participants might well find themselves in in the middle of summer. , Myers said.

“(Our job is) to make sure all the homes in this area are protected,” Myers said. “And in this case, there are a lot of preventive (measures). We remove the combustibles. It’s not necessarily a wall of flames that will threaten the house in these areas; it will be embers that will land in a gutter where someone didn’t remove the dry leaves that were there.”

Firefighting efforts sometimes mean protecting a single home that firefighters know they can defend, or strategically identifying the best configuration to protect multiple homes. Other times it may mean discussing the best use of key resources and how to use the water available to them efficiently.

Myers hopes that through wildfire prevention and awareness resources such as fire sage, Ready, set, go ! and an ongoing webinar series – the next of which will take place on June 28 and can be registered for here through the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office – community members can also take the initiative.

Eliminating potential sources of fuel in gutters, removing piles of firewood, cleaning under decks, and pruning low branches of trees and plants are suggested precautionary measures.

When it comes to landscaping and construction, Myers recommends using composites and metals, as opposed to wood and other more flammable materials. These steps are especially crucial for those who live in more rural areas.

Despite the wet spring, local and state agencies will continue to monitor conditions going forward.

“We’re definitely looking at, ‘what are the relative humidity levels?'” Myers said. “What are the fuels in our region? How quickly do they dry out? “The northwest part of our state has seen a lot of saturation and is a much better place than a month and a half ago.”

Even so, Myers admits that eastern and central Oregon are likely to dry out at an accelerated rate.

Hundreds of Oregonians were displaced from their homes during the 2020 season. Ongoing training and conscious decision-making could reduce the likelihood of a repeat scenario.

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