Neighboring fire units train in Sisters


Last updated 6/20/2023 at 11:03am

Photo by Bill Bartlett

A firefighter aerial certification training session caught the eye of folks in Sisters, as ladder trucks deployed at Metabolic Maintenance.

Dozens of Sisters Country folk were startled Friday when driving past Metabolic Maintenance at North Larch Street and East Barclay Drive. Fire crews from Redmond, Jefferson County, and Black Butte Ranch were assembled in the firm's parking lot.

Not just any fire trucks. The big ones. The ones with aerial ladders. The ladders were extended, and towered over the structure. Firefighters were ascending the ladders, step by step, methodically and intently.

No. smoke. No fire.

What then? Training and certification. The units were in Sisters about a week ago at the invitation and co-ordination of Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District. They returned Friday under the auspices of the Black Butte Ranch (BBR) Fire Department.

BBR and Redmond have trucks with a 75-foot reach. Jefferson County's rig has a whopping 105-foot reach. As no building in Sisters comes remotely close to requiring that height, why do a certification class here?

"It's not how high the ladder can go," said Training Captain Mark Johnson from Jefferson County Fire and EMS, "it's how far it can reach."

A building like Bi-Mart or Ray's, or in this case Metabolic Maintenance, has a big footprint with roofs as wide or long as 200 feet.

"We need to be able to get over the fire, on top of it, to pour water down when a fire is centered in a structure," Johnson explained.

Oregon is strict in its certification process for fire and police, with layers of accreditation. Just because you are a firefighter doesn't mean you get to drive the truck. If you are certified to drive a tanker truck, you have to get further certified to drive a ladder truck. Even if you have been certified to drive a ladder truck, you still need accreditation to work the ladder.

It may sound cumbersome until you think of the life-and-death nature of the work, Johnson told The Nugget.

Johnson has been fighting fires for 27 years. In this class there were six personnel getting aerial certification. Two are volunteer firefighters and four are paid. Of the paid this day, three were men and one was a woman. Johnson's department is 50/50 men/women and is based in Madras.

"We love coming to Sisters. The food's great and the people couldn't be nicer, he said.

Their lunch breaks when in Sisters included Ski Inn and Sisters Meat & Smokehouse, where it was quite the scene when their rigs pulled up and a couple dozen hungry firefighters ordered up.

Fires can burn or smolder for hours, so calling a ladder truck from many miles away is not as improbable in its effectiveness as it may seem. Johnson recalls driving from Madras to John Day, a 145-mile drive of over two hours. The local department could fight the perimeter of the fire, but not the center. They needed the ladder to get on top of the center of the blaze.

Miles Borden from Sisters, stopping to take in the action, expressed gratitude for the idea that such support was nearby should we need it.

"It's very reassuring to know that our neighbors have this kind of equipment," he said.


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