GASTON, Ore. — Despite heavy rain in the Willamette Valley this spring, most of Oregon is under a drought, and state officials are expecting hazardous wildfire conditions in southern and eastern parts of the state this summer.
To prepare for what's expected to be a busy season, more than 500 firefighters have spent the last couple weeks in training. That includes firefighters with Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue (TVFR) and neighboring fire agencies, who have been going over various drills.
TVFR and neighboring agencies are undergoing the annual, month-long training in partnership with the Oregon Department of Forestry.
Lt. Travis Kanoff, a wildland fire coordinator for TVFR, said it’s important for crews to get familiar with the conditions they might be face when they are working on a real fire.
He said crews have been working on creating firebreaks — gaps between areas with combustible vegetation to help contain fires that start to burn out of control — in a rural area of Washington County. Other training activities include spraying wet lines to reinforce fire breaks and utilizing portable water tanks to create a continuous water supply for fire crews.
Many who are participating in the training have been fighting wildfires for more than two decades, and that includes Kanoff. He’s worked on some of the most destructive wildfires the West Coast has seen over the past several years.
Kanoff said he fought the Eagle Creek Fire that broke out in the Columbia River Gorge nearly five years ago. He also helped fight the Camp Fire that devastated the town of Paradise, California a few years ago.
"Eighty-five fatalities. It looked like a moonscape," he said. "A lot of destruction but great experience for the crews at the same time."
Firefighters at the training said doing the small things now will prepare them for when it’s not just practice.