As Fire School ends, fire season begins with summer’s arrival

Sean C. Morgan

Fire season officially began at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, June 28.

The week before, some 200 firefighters gathered at Sweet Home High School for five days of training that ended with the customary live fire training on Friday, June 24.

As of Monday, June 27, fire officials were uncertain when regulated use would take effect on Oregon Department of Forestry-protected lands around Sweet Home, but they anticipated getting that information sometime on Tuesday.

Outside of a regulated use designation, the use of fireworks and campfires are allowed, but immediately upon entering fire season, the use of fireworks is banned on land owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, much of the land along Quartzville Road below the national forest.

Watch The New Era’s website,, and Facebook page for updates on regulated use this week.

Fire danger was “low” on Monday, and the area is under Industrial Fire Precaution Level I, which requires fire prevention measures and a fire watch at industrial sites.

Around the state, “we’re looking at drier than normal, above average,” said Fire Protection Supervisor Chad Calderwood, ODF Sweet Home Unit. “Some places are still in drought. Normally, we don’t go into the fire season till July. So we’re above average too.”

The northeastern and Central Oregon snow packs were gone early, Calderwood said, and the west doesn’t have much of a snow pack left either.

The west side snow pack mostly went away in April said Forest Protection Supevisor Neil Miller, ODF Sweet Home Unit.

So far this year, the Sweet Home Unit has responded to one major fire, a 6.3-acre fire at the intersection of Soda Fork Road and Highway 20 on April 13. The fire was larger than any last summer.

Around the state, Sisters recently had a 2,000-acre fire.

The Sweet Home Unit’s fire crew started working on June 20, and it has responded to one fire, the shop fire off Riggs Hill Road on June 20.

Last year, the Sweet Home Unit temporarily increased its size from 11 firefighters to 14 firefighters, Calderwood said. That change became permanent this year.

The Sweet Home Unit sent seven firefighters to Fire School in Sweet Home last week, Calderwood said. The Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District sent one for conflagration training.

From the Sweet Home Unit, three firefighters were new and received first-year training. They included Michael Brewer, Thayne Moretti and Hailey Hummer. Returning firefighters taking advanced firefighter training were Jonathan Fisher, Brandon Whaley, Katie Virtue and Justin Wolfe.

SHFAD firefighter J.T. Weld received first-year basic training.

Many of the 200 participants in Fire School camped out at Sweet Home High School. They attended classes throughout the week and then participated in live fire training on Friday.

Cascade Timber Consulting provided the land and slash piles for the training exercise.

During the exercise “they got to experience smoke, flames and heat,” Calderwood said.

Going into the Fourth of July, Calderwood said. “be vigilant. Conditions are dry now. The weather is still warm and dry.

“Have a great Fourth.”