By: Mike Kearney, Mutual Aid Committee

On July 15th and 16th 2003, the San Francisco Fire Department and the Presidio Fire Department participated in the Wildland 2003 live burn exercise at Camp Parks in Dublin, CA. Approximately 50 firefighters and officers from our Department as well as firefighters from the 9 Bay Area Counties participated in this valuable training.

Live burn exercises consisted of progressive hose leads, fire line safety, mobile attack, fire behavior, and hand line construction. Attending members have agreed that it is much more meaningful when you have a live exercise in order to sharpen the skills they acquired during last April’s training at Treasure Island. During these exercises we experienced the immense heat generated when introduced to rapid moving, light-flashy fuels. One member had his goggles melt and another member slightly burned his nose (I won’t dump their names). It also brought to mind C.D.F.’s video, “The Kelly York Story”. For those who have not seen the video, it is a story about a courageous Woodland firefighter who was severely burned in these identical conditions. These are the same fuels we encounter every year in Battalions 6, 9, and 10. It is imperative that all firefighters wear their P.P.E’s and establish L.A.C.E.S (Lookouts, Awareness, Communications, Escape Routes, Safety Zones) prior to attacking a grass or brush fire.

Because of rigid air quality standards, it has been unfortunate that over the past 20 years we were not allowed to conduct live burn maneuvers in our city in order to improve our wildland skills. These grass burning details provided training and created firebreaks around structures and parks. During the summer and fall, our outlying Battalions respond to many fires, however, for those not working in these areas, their hands-on-training is limited. For that reason alone, the Division of Training has incorporated the Wildland Training in our Battalion-Based Training Program. In addition, the Mutual Aid Committee provides mandatory training for the first ten engine companies due at Box 5499 and Engine 43 (OES 248). This 8-hour class is offered to everyone interested in being eligible to respond on OES 248 or a Strike Team. In order to be eligible to respond on a “Planned Need Dispatch” (outside the nine Bay Area counties), it is mandatory that you successfully complete the 8-hour Wildland Training Course given each April. You are not qualified by having only taken the 3-hour Battalion Based Training held in May/June of each year. There seems to have been some confusion regarding these requirements during the recent devastating Southern California fires.

I wish to thank the Alameda and Contra Costa County Fire Training Officer’s Association, and especially Alameda County Battalion Chief T.J. Welch, for the invitation to participate in this all-important exercise. Our strike teams were amazed at the magnitude of work and planning that went into hosting such a large-scale training event. We are looking forward to participating again in 2004. A special thanks goes O.E. S. Region 2 Division Chief Marvin Howard for his support and assistance on behalf of this Department. In addition, a big thanks to our Administration, for their support of this exercise and the goals of the Mutual Aid Committee.

Photos provided by Mike Kearney


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