La Pine firefighters get a blast of fiery training

State's mobile fire training center rolls into town

State fire-training center visits La Pine

LA PINE, Ore. - It sounded real, it looked real, and for La Pine firefighters, realistic training is rare -- and valuable.

"It does get you ready for that fire -- it's very realistic," 21-year-old firefighter Brandon Hargous said Tuesday.

Last Friday, the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training brought its two story, mobile fire center to set ablaze again and again.

The mobile center and state instructors spent the past several days helping La Pine firefighters hone their skills.

"(It will help us) improve on our communications, strategy and tactics, and to work with actual fire," Lt. Joe Sawyer said Tuesday.

It's a rare treat for smaller districts without their own training facilities.

"A huge step up from pulling hose through a dry bay and working around pieces of apparatus," Sawyer said.

Sawyer said his crews train with the center once a year.

It's a massive and complicated-looking machine that its operators describe fairly simply:

"It's like a stainless steel oven, actually," said Central Oregon Regional Fire Training Coordinator Harry Ward.

New firefighters say it's a chance to simulate situations they rarely encounter.

'The more you practice, the less you have to think about it, so when you are amped up on a real fire, it's second nature," Hargous said.

Intense flames now that firefighters hope will douse any doubt during the real deal in the future.

"When we enter a structure and there's a fire, then we have to be on our 'A game,"' Ward said.

Ward estimates the training center costs upward of $500,000, but the training doesn't cost anything to the fire departments, as it's paid for by the state.

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