The devastating wildfire season of 2018 in the wheat growing regions of Wasco and Sherman Counties burned nearly 120,000 acres and tragically resulted in a fatality. In response Oregon OSHA created new requirements in 2019 for producers with employees who engage in suppressing wildfires on cropland and rangelands with feedback from the Oregon Wheat Growers League.
Employees do not need to be red card certified like professionals, but must receive some form of basic wildland firefighting training and an annual refresher. Additional OSHA requirements include having:
- An emergency action plan for medical and fire emergencies
- Fire prevention plan
- Job hazard analysis.
If you or employees are currently in a Rangeland Fire Protection Association (RFPA) or Rural Fire Protection District (RFPD) you do not need additional training, however you do need to complete the required plans. These requirements are not enforced up front, but producers could be liable if an employee is hurt while suppressing a wildfire.
While these requirements add another layer of regulations, they are encouraging action plans and basic training that will reduce the risk of wildfires to agricultural producers physical and mental health, along with their crops and farm infrastructure.