Two Bulls Fire: Looking at the lessons learned

Early fire sparks concern about rest of season

Two Bulls Fire - lessons learned

BEND, Ore. - A month after the Two Bulls Fire erupted, Central Oregon agencies held a meeting about what they can learn from the wildfire that forced evacuations of hundreds and threatened the same for thousands of residents on the west side of Bend.

It was not by any means the most destructive fire in Central Oregon's history, but it was worrisome in on major factor: unusually early in the season.

"This is earlier than we would normally expect a fire like that," said Kevin Stock, assistant fire management officer with the Deschutes National Forest. "We are a month ahead, the way our fuels have dried up. It was definitely eye-opening for us."

Although it took officials by surprise, they were well-prepared nonetheless.

Officials have created the Central Oregon Fire Operations Group, which comes together for inter-agency meetings on a regular basis. 

They had a pre-season meeting just three days before the Two Bulls Fire. 

"This is one of few areas in the nation that we work so well together and we're actually a model for other areas," said Bend fire Battalion Chief Jeff Blake. 

After each major fire, they hold after-action reviews where they discuss what went well and what did not. 

"The No. 1 thing is again always communication. It can always be better. There's always things that impact communications," Blake said.

"When we do this, we're not one organization, but a community of public safety and public service," said Deschutes County sheriff's Lt. Scott Shelton.

Especially in the first few hours of a fire, or any natural disaster, things are chaotic -- and communication is key. And the hard lessons of the past have brought improvement.

"We find that the information flow is better," Shelton said. "It's quicker. We're more comfortable saying what's on our mind."

Even with such good team work, the danger of a major fire is real. Especially when it is happening later in the season. 

Fires are prioritized nationwide. The Two Bulls Fire was a No. 1 priority at the time, and quickly received numerous national and regional resources. 

"We got a lot of resources early and fairly quickly for that time of year," Blake said. "And that helped us have a successful outcome. In August that might be a little bit more difficult," said Blake. 

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