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    Post Contracts Pulled

    BEND, Ore. (AP) - The state cut contracts with two private
    firefighting companies and has 10 other crews under investigation
    due to stepped-up scrutiny of training practices, Department of
    Forestry officials said.
    Mountain Forestry Inc., based in Independence, lost 16 fire
    crews because it falsified training and identification records,
    said Don Moritz, the state's fire contract manager. That's more
    than 300 jobs.
    A spokesman, Mike Cox, said Mountain Forestry's attorneys were
    working with the government to resolve the issue.
    The state also yanked its contracts with Westwood Resources,
    which oversees two 20-person firefighting crews based in Klamath
    Falls, for failing to establish a proper dispatch base.
    "This investigation prevents inadequately trained firefighters
    from being put in harm's way," Moritz told The Bulletin in Bend.
    The contract cancellations affect the remainder of the 2004 fire
    season, which started with 298 crews on the books.
    According to Moritz, 269 crews of 20 people each remain
    available for this summer's wildfire season in the Pacific
    Northwest.
    Ten crews based in central Oregon are under investigation
    because companies may have falsely declared access to dispatch and
    staging sites, he said.
    Oregon has become the nation's epicenter for contract
    firefighting in the past decade, as government agencies have opted
    to hire outside firms for seasonal work.
    It now registers more crews than any other state - jumping from
    106 crews in 2000, to 300 in 2003.
    But the National Wildlife Suppression Association and others
    have been pushing for better training and certification, following
    the August 2003 crash that left eight Roseburg firefighters dead.
    "What contractors want is what anybody in any industry wants: a
    fair and level playing field," said Debbie Miley, executive
    secretary for the Lyons-based group. It represents 246 companies
    nationwide - 75 percent of those in the Pacific Northwest.
    Crews registered in Oregon can fight fires for several
    government entities in the Northwest.
    First, firefighters must complete training in fire behavior,
    firefighting tools and techniques, and safety. Companies are
    required to maintain records and training logs for all their
    firefighters.
    ---
    Information from: The Bulletin

    (Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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