Fire Alert

Rookie firefighters learn the ropes with 'live fire'

Program draws firefighters from across the country

Rookie firefighters get their first look at the fire lines

SISTERS, Ore. - After nearly a week in the classroom and spending their nights in a tent, 40 to 50 students from across the country tested their wildfire-fighting skills in a live drill Thursday.

The drill is part of what is known as Guard School. Each year rookie firefighters take the class to learn everything necessary to joins a firefighting crews

"I was sweating," said Cory Lopez, a trainee from Prineville. "We were only working 20 to 30 minutes, and I was sweating."

He's no stranger to the wildfire community, the long days, hot temperatures and smell of smoke are in his blood.

"My grandfather was a wildland firefighter for several years and was digging hand lines and all that stuff," Lopez said.

"A lot of these guys are rookies, so it's good to see them start out from the beginning and start to get a little more comfortable things," said squad boss trainee Ryan Ellers.

The class is not only a way for rookies to get their first taste of smoke, but is allowing Ellers to learn important leadership skills as a squad boss.

"It's a little different, you know. You have to take that responsibility with your crew members," Ellers said.

Part of the simulation Thursday was to make sure all the firefighters could make it out to a safe zone, in case the fire got out of control.

"We spent a lot of time in the classroom," Incident Commander Jeffrey Klaassen said. "We go over a lot of things, we emphasize on safety, and we have good leadership out here with them."

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