With California’s intense drought and a huge jump in the number of recent fires, dozens of firefighters gathered in the East County Friday to conduct their annual fire preparedness training.
The Viejas Casino parking lot in Alpine served as a good spot or some real-life exercises, including training on communications, structure protection, hose deployments and survival under simulated emergency conditions. Various local emergency service agencies came together for the training event in preparation for fire season and the hot months ahead.
As a helicopter flew overhead spraying down faux flames, fire crews below hustled through the brush with hoses in hand.
The real-life training exercise brought in several fire engines with dozens of firefighters put to the test. They were evaluated on everything from how they pull the hose to how well they were communicating and using their resources.
This year, Cal Fire staffing is already at its peak, so the agency can be ready for the worst this fire season.
At Friday’s session, firefighters told NBC 7 this type of training is key to being successful in a real-life emergency situation.
“I was fortunate enough to have experience with the Harris and Cedar fires years ago, but each fire is different – you can never be prepared enough,” said Capt. Jim Hemphill of Heartland Fire and Rescue.
“So we're getting a chance to practice just like we fight fire – training the exact same way we're fighting fire. So this gives us an opportunity to knock off the cob webs and play with some new technology out there, see how we can use it,” added Fire Chief Don Butz, of the Viejas Fire Department.
That new technology includes a white board application that allows fire authorities to see in a picture what the fire is doing and what resources are being deployed, rather than have to learn about it by word of mouth.
By the time the workshop wraps up on Monday, more than 750 firefighters will have trained.