SALEM, Ore. - More than 125 members of the Oregon National Guard departed from the Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem Saturday morning, trained and equipped to help support the state's comprehensive wildfire suppression efforts. This group, known as NG-2 (National Guard - Team 2) will join the fire lines on the 36,406-acre Taylor Creek Fire west of Merlin later Saturday.
This is the second group deployed this year, with 147 members of the Oregon National Guard (NG-1) dispatched to assist at the Garner Complex Fire in Josephine County a few days ago.
On Friday, staff from the Oregon Department Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) completed a week-long training program for nearly 200 citizen-soldiers and citizen-airmen who volunteered for the second iteration of Oregon National Guard personnel called-up to help support the efforts of wildland firefighters around the state. About 200 members of the Guard were previously trained as wildland firefighters in July at Camp Rilea.
This year, the Oregon National Guard proactively trained 400 citizen-soldiers and citizen-airmen to serve as wildland firefighters in case their assistance was requested by the Oregon Department of Forestry. This training was made possible thanks to federal funds that were allocated at the request of state officials to help prepare members of the National Guard should there help be needed. To date, more than 250 of these trained personnel have been deployed with the others standing-by ready to assist if needed.
The training provided to the Oregon National Guard is the same training required of all public and private wildland firefighters. This training is often known as "red card" training and consists of both classroom and hands-on sessions. Classes include a wide-variety of topics, including safety considerations, communications, protecting tribal artifacts, fire behavior, and hands-on sessions such as fire shelter deployment, hand lines, gridding, hand tool work and related skills. All of these classes combined will allow the citizen-soldiers and citizen-airmen to be safe and effective in their work in case they are required this year to help support the efforts of wildland firefighters around the state.
The request for assistance at the Southern Oregon fires was made through an ongoing agreement the Oregon Military Department has with the Oregon Department of Forestry known as Operation Plan Smokey, which stipulates the details of how Oregon National Guard members will be utilized to assist in firefighting efforts. This agreement is reviewed annually by leadership of both agencies with training provided by DPSST at the Oregon Public Safety Academy once the Governor approves the activation of citizen-soldiers and citizen-airmen.
The Oregon National Guard has a proven track record of supporting wildfire suppression efforts, from the air and on the ground, around the state in recent years. In 2015, members of the Oregon National Guard assisted with wildfire suppression efforts in John Day and Enterprise. In 2017, more than 400 citizen-soldiers and citizen-airmen supported Oregon's firefighting efforts (air and ground) at High Cascades Complex (near Crater Lake), Chetco Bar, Blanket Creek, Horse Prairie, and Milli fires.
DPSST's Director Eriks Gabliks said, "DPSST was honored to train this dedicated group of men and women of the Oregon National Guard who volunteered for this training program and subsequent fire deployment. Firefighting resources across the state are stretched thin and the proactive training funded by the Federal government means the Guard will arrive faster to provide critical support for the state's comprehensive and coordinated mission."
For more information on the Oregon National Guard's preparation and participation in this year's wildfire fighting efforts please contact SFC April Davis, Public Affairs Specialist, Oregon Military Department, phone 503-584-3807, email email@example.com.
On July 18, Governor Kate Brown declared a statewide wildfire emergency, which activated Operation Plan Smokey to make Oregon National Guard(ONG) troops and resources available to the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) as needed.
Follow the work of the Oregon National Guard at https://www.facebook.com/OregonGuard/
For information on the Taylor Creek Fire: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6058/