SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- As part of the state's coordinated and comprehensive wildfire suppression efforts, and thanks to funds allocated by the federal government, more than 400 citizen-soldiers and citizen-airmen from the Oregon National Guard will be trained as wildland firefighters next week at the Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem.
Approximately 180 members of the Guard will be at the Academy on July 11, and 12. This group has already received the wildland firefighter training in the past and needs a refresher course to maintain their certification.
More than 300 Guard members who have not been previously trained will arrive at the Academy on July 13 and will complete their training on July 17.
It is important to note this training will be managed using COVID-19 health and safety protocols that will cover not only classroom and hands-on training but also meals and lodging on the DPSST campus.
Federal funds were allocated, at the request of state officials, to help prepare members of the National Guard in case their assistance will be needed to support wildland firefighting efforts around the state.
The training is being provided by the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training and is the same training required of all public and private wildland firefighters.
Because of the size of the group, DPSST is supplementing its training cadre and is utilizing additional instructors from the Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon Military Department Wildland Firefighting Section, United States Forest Service, Illinois Fire Service Institute, and the New Jersey Forest Fire Service.
The training the members of the Oregon National Guard will be receiving is often known as "red card" training and consists of both classroom and hands-on sessions.
DPSST’s Director Eriks Gabliks said, “The training we will be providing will allow these citizen-soldiers and citizen-airmen to be safe and effective in their work, in case they are required this year to help support the efforts of wildland firefighters around the state. We salute the men and women from the Guard for their dedicated service to our country, both at home and around the globe.”
Gabliks also said, “We applaud the leadership of Oregon’s congressional delegation on Capitol Hill for ensuring that these funds were allocated for this important mission and the leadership Oregon has shown to prepare members of the Guard as we begin wildfire season just in case their assistance is needed.”
The Oregon National Guard has a proven track record of supporting wildfire suppression efforts, from the air and on the ground, around the state in recent years.
In 2015, members of the Oregon National Guard assisted with wildfire suppression efforts in John Day and Enterprise. In 2017, more than 400 citizen-soldiers and citizen-airmen supported Oregon's firefighting efforts (air and ground) at the High Cascades Complex (near Crater Lake), Chetco Bar, Blanket Creek, Horse Prairie, and Milli fires.
The Oregon National Guard has a long-standing agreement with the Oregon Department of Forestry known as Operation Plan Smokey, which stipulates the details of how Oregon National Guard members will be utilized to assist in annual firefighting efforts if needed. This agreement is reviewed on an annual basis by both agencies and the Governor's Office.
What is different this year is that funds were requested by state officials, and approved by the federal government, to provide training to members of the National Guard ahead of the need. This will allow these wildland firefighter-trained citizen-soldiers and citizen-airmen to be activated and deployed much faster should the need arise for their assistance.
After the week-long training is completed, the citizen-soldiers and citizen-airmen will return to their respective armories and air bases and full-time careers and be on standby for deployment, should their assistance be needed during fire season.
DPSST will be reimbursed for its expenses by the Oregon Military Department.
DPSST is honored to help support this important mission and has a proven record of success in training over 1,000 members of the Guard for wildland firefighting duties over the past five years.