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Firefighters from dozens of agencies take part in wildfire training in Molalla

The two-day training gives crews first-hand experience on how to effectively fight wildfires.

Firefighters from 42 different agencies are taking part in a two-day training course on private property near Molalla. They're practicing everything from air drops to digging fire lines, and the key is communication.

This training has been happening on the property for more than 10 years. The 70 firefighters that are taking part this year are the largest group to date.

It was put on hold in 2020 because of the pandemic, and fire officials said training remotely would not have been very feasible. As you can imagine, it can be hard to fight a fire first-hand over a Zoom call. 

"Ultimately you gotta get out here and experience and really experience it firsthand," Rich Tyler said, spokesman for the Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office.

This training helps the fire fighters understand fire in a more controlled environment. 

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"Our crews get to see how fire reacts, how it changes especially with weather conditions," Tyler said.

Tyler says fighting wildfires uses different tactics than for a house or structure fire. 

"In a structure fire, we want to put the fire out where the source of a fire is. In a wildland fire, we're not doing direct attack all the time, sometimes it's an indirect attack."

Crews spent the day cutting up fallen branches and digging fire lines so an approaching fire would run out of fuel. 

"The ground is where the fires are the battles are kind of won and lost, if you will." Clackamas Fire Battalion Chief Brent Olson says, "Hand crews, their primary function is to deprive the fire of fuel and they go and do that by when we turn hand lines to prevent the spread of fire on the ground."

RELATED: Western fire season starts much drier than record 2020

One of the bigger keys during the training, like any job, is good communication, especially when it comes to dropping water from above.

"If we don't have good communication between the ground and the air, the people who are putting the water or retardant from the aircraft out onto the fire or in front of the fire are not going to put it into the proper place."

With less than an inch of rain in April and May, this spring is Portland's driest on record. It's shaping up to be a potentially bad fire season.

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