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Fire departments attend wildland training session

Fire fighters from various agencies participated in a training session on wildland fire fighting near Scofield on Saturday.
A firefighter sprays along side a roadway during the training exercise in Scofield this past weekend.

Sun Advocate reporter

On Saturday, 80 emergency personnel from 16 units in a five-county region descended on Aspen Grove at the north end of Scofield Reservoir to attend training put on by state forestry department's fire and lands division.

The Aspen Grove community is an example of the encroachment of urban living into wildlands areas. With the scenic location comes the enhanced risks associated with wildfire danger.

Many emergency crews used to be trained in urban structure techniques or in the skills to fight wildfires.

But as housing growth reaches into mountain bench areas and forested settings, the roles of firefighters have blended, making cross training more important.

Wildland urban interface (WUI) is part of almost every community and the role of engines in wildland fire settings has increased in Utah and across the nation.

To help volunteer engine teams understand the tactics and strategies in fighting wildland fires, the state offered the first training session to volunteer departments in southeast Utah on April 25.

Between 1990 and 1992, there were 153 WUI fires in Utah. Twenty-four counties and $1.6 million in property damage were included.

Properties valued at another $31.4 million were at risk of damage from the fires. More than 400 communities were "at risk" from approaching fires, according to state officials.

Local teams attending the tranining included Helper, Wellington, Price, East Carbon and Sunnyside

Emery sent teams from Elmo, Orangeville, Ferron, Cleveland and Huntington.

There were also squads from San Juan, Bluff, Blanding, Castle Valley, La Sal, Utah County and Eastland.

The teams were divided into three divisions and encouraged to get to know the personnel they were working with.

One aspect of the training was to give the teams a chance to interact with neighboring departments so, when they ended up on the same fire lines, they were familiar with each other. They also worked on learning the communication jargon associated with wildfire fighting and the frequencies to use.

They were taught how to assess the surroundings as they approached a fire to look for water sources, fuel loads and escape routes. They were encouraged to compare equipment to see if there were resources they might want or need to acquire for their units.

Each division was given scenarios to battle in mock fire situations. They fully deployed hoses and gear in order to simulate situations as close as they could and were given time constraints to act on the information.

As we enter another fire season in Utah, our local departments will be a bit more prepared as the summer rolls along to use their new tools to defend our communities from some of the fire storms seen elsewhere in the country.

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