Oregon firefighters have backup if they need it during wildfire season. The Oregon National Guard and Oregon Department of Forestry have a long-standing agreement known as Operation Plan Smokey.
Operation Plan Smokey allows Gov. Kate Brown to deploy members of the Oregon National Guard to assist in battling blazes when there is a state wildfire emergency.
Earlier in July, more than 400 Oregon National Guard members completed training covering firefighting techniques. Around 175 guard members returned for refresher training, and more than 250 were newly trained.
The training was offered by the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. It involved a mix of hands-on sessions and classroom instruction, and DPSST described the trainees as women and men from diverse backgrounds.
“DPSST is honored to help support this important mission and has a proven record of success in training over 1,000 members of the Guard for wildland firefighting duties over the past five years,” said DPSST Director Eriks Gabliks. “We value and appreciate the partnership we enjoy with the Oregon National Guard.”
The DPSST operates the Oregon Public Safety Academy on a 235-acre facility located in Salem.
“The training provided will allow these 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,” a DPSST press release stated.
In past years, Oregon National Guard citizen soldiers and citizen-airmen have offered much needed assistance. For example, in 2017 they assisted with fighting fires at the High Cascades Complex near Crater Lake, Chetco Bar, Blanket Creek, and Horse Prairie.
In 2019, Oregon wildfires burned 67,795 acres, and a devastating 883,405 acres were lost the year prior. Wildfires cost the state $58 million in 2019 compared to 2018’s record-setting $530 million.