Wild­fire war­rior

Pardeesville man spends two weeks help­ing to douse blazes in Ore­gon

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - FRONT PAGE - BY KELLY MONITZ STAFF WRITER

Era Gould re­turned home ear­lier last week af­ter spend­ing more than two weeks fight­ing wild­land fires in Ore­gon.

The Pardeesville man, who is part of the South­ern Luzerne County Wild­land Crew, went out west in late July with a team of fire­fight­ers from Penn­syl­va­nia to as­sist in a state with nu­mer­ous fires rag­ing and con­sum­ing acreage.

The Penn­syl­va­nia team started in 1973 or 1974 and be­gan be­ing de­ployed na­tion­wide. Gould, who de­vel­oped an in­ter­est in wild­land fires here, de­cided he wanted to be part of that state forestry team two years ago.

“The more I got into it, the more I wanted to go out west,” he said.

Gould started train­ing, which took some time, and pre­pared to do a pack test, or a phys­i­cal agility test in­volv­ing walk­ing at a high rate of speed for three miles with a 45-pound pack in 45 min­utes, to qual­ify for the team.

He passed the tests and was placed on the avail­abil­ity list to be de­ployed. The state De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion and Nat­u­ral Re­sources Bureau of Forestry starts call­ing out peo­ple from the list by forestry dis­tricts, and those con­tacted have a half-hour to call back or they lose their slot, he said.

“It’s got to go fast, be­cause within 48 hours we’re on the ground out west,” Gould said.

He got the call on July 18 and was get­ting briefed in Har­ris­burg two days later, he said. The state is­sued ev­ery­one two pair of green pants, two yel­low shirts and a fire shel­ter, a tin foil and fiber­glass blan­ket a fire­fighter uses should they be­come trapped by ad­vanc­ing flames, he said.

Once on the ground in Ore­gon, they were is­sued pickup trucks and as­signed to 20-per­son crews. They loaded gear into the trucks and headed to the Hen­drix fire camp out­side Jack­son, he said.

“Camp was in­ter­est­ing,” he said. “That’s where you live.”

‘It’s a lot more than a fire in the woods. It’s al­most like a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion.’ Era Gould Pardeesville man who spent two weeks in Ore­gon fight­ing wild­fires

SUB­MIT­TED PHO­TOS

The glow from one of the ar­eas of a wild­fire in Ore­gon lit up the evening sky over the camp where Era Gould of Pardeesville and other fire­fight­ers from Penn­syl­va­nia stayed.

Era Gould walks a dozer path with his gear, pack and first aid kit with his crew head­ing to work for the day fight­ing wild­land fires in Ore­gon.

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