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By Jim Cornelius
News Editor 

Firefighters get live-fire training in Sisters


Last updated 2/15/2022 at Noon

Jerry Baldock

Dozens of firefighters trained in search and rescue and fire suppression in a training exercise at the future site of Sisters Woodlands. The exercise continues next Sunday.

You just can’t replicate the heat, the feeling of being in a building that’s on fire,” Sisters Fire Chief Roger Johnson told The Nugget on Sunday, as teams of firefighters entered smoking buildings in a live-fire training exercise. “You just can’t replicate that kind of training.”

Firefighters and other personnel from Sisters, Cloverdale, Black Butte Ranch, Bend, Redmond, and Crooked River Ranch engaged in extensive training drills on property that is now part of the Sisters Woodlands development just off Pine Street on the west side of Sisters, on Sunday, February 13. The developers offered structures that were formerly part of the Sisters Ranger District facilities on the site for use in the training exercise.

Firefighters practiced search and rescue skills along with fire attack, ventilation, and exposure protection in the day-long session, which will be repeated on Sunday, February 20.

Chief Johnson noted that the session was also an opportunity to train live-fire instructors. They learn how to prepare a building for safe training scenarios and how to organize a successful training session.

Johnson expressed appreciation to developers Paul Hodge and Paul and Carla Schneider of Sisters for making the training opportunity possible.

“It’s getting harder to get acquired structures,” Chief Johnson explained.

A good “burn to learn” location needs to be a safe distance from neighbors, and operations can only be conducted during times of year when fire spread is not a significant danger — which is a short window nowadays. The Sisters Woodlands location fit the bill.

“It’s an exceptional location and a great opportunity,” Chief Johnson said. “We’re very grateful that the developer saved it for us.”

Extensive preparation goes into the exercise. Hazardous fixtures like water heaters — which can heat up and explode — must be removed, along with any asbestos that could be dispersed in smoke. The building is altered to allow for ventilation and repeated fire starts “to make it last longer and be safer,” Johnson explained.

The structure is divided up into cells where fires can be started and extinguished repeatedly. According to Chief Johnson, the goal is to get a dozen to 20 fire starts during the training exercise.

Chief Johnson noted that the Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District (SCSFD) is working on enhancing its regular training facilities near Sisters’ wastewater treatment plant to allow for more live- fire training, where firefighters get the sensation of working in smoke, heat, and close quarters.

On the same day, firefighters responded to a structure fire west of Tollgate that consumed an outbuilding.

The Sisters Fire District is currently seeking volunteers (see related story, page 3).

Sisters-Camp Sherman Rural Fire Protection District is also seeking applicants to fill a vacant position on their board of directors. Fire District board members Jack McGowan and Chuck Newport were on hand for the training exercise. They noted that no fire experience is necessary to serve on the board — simply a desire to serve the Sisters community.

The board will appoint the successful candidate to the vacant position through June 30, 2023. The board of directors meet each month at 5 p.m. on the third Tuesday.

Completed applications should be returned with a cover letter and be received in the Fire District’s administrative office no later than February 25 at 5 p.m.

Applications may be picked up at the SCSFD Administrative Office at

301 S. Elm St., from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or at www.

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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