The Sweetwater Fire Department recently had a wildfire class put on by Texas A&M Extension Service. It was a week-long class, put on at the local fire station.
The class covered many topics, ranging from safety on the fire grounds, to what equipment to take on deployment, communications, fire behavior in the wildfire setting, managing risk and deploying a fire shelter.
The fire shelter is used as a last ditch effort to survive, should the crew be over run with fire. "They had practice shelters for us to use instead of using the actual shelters that are very expensive and cannot be re-used," said Sweetwater Fire Chief Grant Madden.
"The way fires are fought around here, is different because of the fuels we have. Most places around the country have taller fuels than we have locally. Our fire load is usually lower, but our wind is almost always higher, which makes fighting fires here more dangerous," said Madden. "Our area is home to some of the most conducive fire weather on a normal basis than most places in the country. We routinely have high temperatures, very low humidity and high winds."
Red flag warnings and critical fire weather are expected during the summer months and are not uncommon in the winter fire season.
For the training class, the instructor broke the class down into crews as if they were deployed to work with the Forest Service. They had crew bosses and a squad boss to keep within the acceptable span of control.
"With the size of the Sweetwater Fire Department, it lends itself to close working relationships already. This class added to that as you have to depend on your crew mates while working the fire line," said Madden.
"Overall, the class was a great success and the Sweetwater Fire Department would like to thank the instructor that came out and put on the class for us. David Rosier from TEEX did an excellent job of keeping the class flowing and the guys motivated," Madden added.
On the last day of the class, firefighters went out and practiced making a fire line and how to properly use the tools required on the fire line.