SUNRIVER, OR -- Dozens of firefighters from across the High Desert took part in a special training near Sunriver, on Friday. "It’s called the Central Oregon Wildfire School – known as 'COWS' – and it’s an opportunity for our local fire agencies to participate in training with live fire in our forests," says Jim Bennett, with Sunriver Fire & Rescue.
COWS was discontinued several years ago due to staffing and funding shortages, but was revived last week, thanks to a partnership between the US Forest Service and the Central Oregon Fire Instructors Association. It was paid for by a grant from the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. A total of 40 firefighters from 10 local agencies took part, "Each fire engine – so, from different organizations throughout the tri-counties – have an opportunity to be the initial attack unit. So, that means they will be the first ones on scene dealing with a relatively small far – quarter acre; no more than a half-acre. And, they’ll have the opportunity to demonstrate, obviously great tactics, but also resource management. So that they get that experience of being a fire manager."
Bennett tells KBND News it's an important training, "We’ve seen so many disastrous fires, especially last year, in California. We’ve certainly had our fair share in Oregon, as well. And, to have this level of training and experience is absolutely incredibly valuable to every firefighter participating." He says it's especially important for crews who normally respond to fires in buildings to be prepared for anything, "The firefighters participating are from structural agencies. So, while they have to have experience and capabilities for fighting wildland fires, interface fires – that’s where the fire is coming in to the residential, the community, the population – they also have their core responsibilities of fighting structural fires, providing medical and rescue services."