Wildland firefighters prepare, train for upcoming wildfire season

Jun 2, 2023, 11:07 PM | Updated: Jun 4, 2023, 3:34 pm

BOX ELDER COUNTY, Utah — There wasn’t a single flame anywhere in sight. However, wildland firefighters know it’s not too far away.

“Summer is coming, eventually, so we’ll up getting a lot of dry stuff,” said Barry Locke the Weber Fire District.

With 17 years of experience doing this job, Locke knows about as well as anyone all the green everyone is seeing in Utah right now will turn yellow.

“We get that hot temperature, all the grass that you see will dry up,” he said.

That’s why the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands is hosting wildland firefighting training exercises across the state.

Friday, crews in northern Utah were divided into groups just north of Tremonton in Box Elder County.

Even though some experienced firefighters were doing the training as a refresher course, for others it was an opportunity to get some dirt on their crisp bright yellow shirts.

“In this group, there were four or five that have never been on a fire,” said Locke, who was helping to train them. “So, they’ve got their basic red card certification, but this is the closest thing so far in their career with that they’re dealing with.”

Even though there wasn’t a real wildfire, these crews were gaining as close to real-life experience as possible.

They were learning how to properly dig handlines, lay hoses, and communicate with incident command. An emphasis on initial attack is also a big part of this training.

When a wildfire starts, it’s usually a small department that is the first to arrive.

“We can save 90 to 95% of the fires in the initial attack phase,” said Weber County Fire Warden Rick Cooper. “Initial attack is the bread and butter of wildland firefighting.”

Learning how to properly attack a small fire faster could keep it from spreading out of control, saving money, property and maybe even lives.

“It’s just going to make us that much more prepared for when the fires do come and once we get out there, we’ll be ready to go,” said Jared Van Oordt, forestry technician with the Bureau of Land Management. “This training is important and gets our crews ready, especially those who are doing it for the first time.”

One part of fires that can be controlled is being extra careful to not start one by leaving campfires unattended, dragging chains from towing something or parking on dry grass.

State fire managers call it having fire sense and they’re asking everyone to be careful when outdoors.

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Wildland firefighters prepare, train for upcoming wildfire season