Don’t worry, it’s just a drill.
Locals and passersby may notice an increase in emergency activity Saturday, May 11, from Canyon City to Bates and Galena.
The Grant County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue is holding a training exercise involving multiple agencies that will respond to a mock fire disaster in Galena on Middle Fork Road (Highway 20), which is about 23 miles northwest of the junction of highways 26 and 7.
Deputy Dave Dobler, who is also the SAR coordinator, said the team has been designing and coordinating the fire evacuation field exercise for the past three months “to assist community groups and public agencies to work more effectively together during a fire emergency.”
Multiple agencies will join the sheriff’s office and search and rescue team, including county Amateur Radio Emergency Service, Air Search, 911 dispatch, county and state emergency management, state fire marshal’s office, Forest Service, Interagency Fire Dispatch, Department of Forestry and others.
Dobler said the mock drill will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday in John Day with units responding to the Galena area.
Galena was chosen because they are a Firewise Community, and residents there have agreed to participate, he said.
Search and rescue, fire and law enforcement teams will contact homeowners and provide a fire evacuation checklist of items they should take with them, such as medicines and important documents. They’ll also advise of where to shelter in the event of an actual emergency and flag their driveways.
“Fire crews will conduct structural triage of some homes and buildings,” Dobler said.
The exercise will then move onto the nearby Malheur National Forest with fixed-wing aircraft from Grant County Air Search looking for mock campsites with role players who need to be evacuated ahead of the fire scenario.
Dobler said he expects the training will be fast-paced to match conditions responders would face in an actual emergency.
“The objectives of this training are to test automated notification systems like Alert Sense, interoperability and communications between different teams and agencies and overall command, control and coordination during this event,” he said.
He said the teams will meet at the conclusion of the event near the training area for a “hot wash” to evaluate the overall event and review the lessons learned.
“There will likely be a lot of emergency vehicle traffic on Middle Fork Road, which will have some caution signs in the area,” he said.
He expects the exercise will be over by about 3 p.m.