heroes in training

The Vale, wildland firefighters are admired and oft-thanked in their community for their arduous and life-threatening service. But few understand what goes on inside the gates of the Vale District Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to prepare them for the job.

“People think we just sit around until a fire happens then we go squirt some water. But that’s not the case,” Al Crouch, Vale BLM’s Fire Information Officer and Fire Investigator said.

Eastern Oregon's fire season usually starts in July, so the firefighters arrive in early June to start their training. They come to the BLM with a wide range of backgrounds, experience and reasons for joining. But all of those differences are set aside with each new crop of seasonal firefighters.

From daily physical training to classroom learning to field practice, the firefighters work long hours in preparation for the life-threatening work they will be doing at the real fires.

Beginning in July, crews were sent to stations located across Malheur County, where they spend the rest of the fire season.

“But the training never ends,” Larisa Bogardus, BLM spokeswoman said. “As long as the season’s still going, they’ll always have things to do.”