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The fire department uses more nimble truck to simulate responding to a blaze at Stevens Meadows 

PMG PHOTO: COREY BUCHANAN - Firefighter Trevor Phillips sprays grass fields at Stevens Meadows during the training.

This week, the city of Lake Oswego Fire Department conducted a training exercise at Stevens Meadows natural area to prepare for this year's wildfire season.

During the exercise, the city used its lone "brush truck" — a smaller and more nimble fire truck that has the ability to drive through rugged terrain and pump water while the engine is running — to practice extinguishing a fire, testing out a new pump configuration and rolling out the water hose hundreds of feet from the truck's location.

"We have a lot of places in Lake Oswego (that) we can't put a fire engine or necessarily a brush truck next to, so we need to be good at being able to get to locations half a mile down the road and put fire out there," driver engineer Dan Hires said.

PMG PHOTO: COREY BUCHANAN - Firefighter Keith Youngblood talks with his fire station team while spraying with the hose during the training.

Firefighters also practiced covering themselves in tarp as a way to simulate if they had to protect themselves from a raging fire. In a real scenario, they would have more protective covering made out of aluminum foil. They also practiced communicating over the radio to let other firefighter teams know what they will be facing.

Hires noted that the process of putting out a wildfire is much different than that of a structural fire.

"In the wildland area it changes a lot. What you may have now once you get the hoses out, the fire may have moved or gotten bigger," he said. "The fire evolves a little bit more than it might in the building. That's a mind shift we as structural firefighters need to make."

PMG PHOTO: COREY BUCHANAN - Firefighters Dan Hires and Paul Corwin prepare the truck for pumping water.

Hires said the city is lucky to have a brush truck, as there aren't many in the region. Firefighter Keith Youngblood added that the vehicle was deployed in Estacada and Colton during the 2020 wildfires, as well as conflagrations in Klamath Falls and Lakeview.

"From July through October, we're anticipating using this thing for wildfires. We're staffing it on the Fourth of July. We will be out and about," Hires said. "We have been plugging ourselves more and more into the wildland field. We're being sent farther and farther places and more often."

PMG PHOTO: COREY BUCHANAN - Firefighters practice protecting themselves in tarp in the case of a raging wildfire.

In case of a fire ravaging a field like the one in Stevens Meadows, Hires said traditional fire trucks would be stationed along the street and work to safeguard homes from being damaged, while the brush truck could be used to fight the blaze at other points such as the entrance to Stevens Meadows. He said this would be a very effective strategy.

"When the grass is burning it's a priority, but not the first priority. We're going to want to make sure we stop the fire from getting into any structural areas. We can let it burn in the grass if we have to, but protecting people and their property is more important to us," Hires said.

PMG PHOTO: COREY BUCHANAN - Firefighters Dan Hires and Paul Corwin work on getting water out to the hose hundreds of yards away. PMG PHOTO: COREY BUCHANAN - Firefighters train for wildfire season at Stevens Meadows in Lake Oswego.

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