Cal Fire races to train firefighter recruits

Local News

COLOMA, Calif. (KTXL) — Cal Fire is racing the clock to get firefighter trainees the experience they need for the coming fire season. 

A big part of that is live fire training, but they can only schedule such training when weather conditions allow.  

“This is an excellent way for them to learn versus to learn on the job where they’re on a hostile fire,” explained Cal Fire Battalion Chief Mark Brunton at a fire training for recruits just outside of Coloma. 

This week, Cal Fire went to maximum staffing of its fire units, several weeks earlier than normal. It will need to season each recruit so they can be deployed. 

For new recruits, live fire training is a must, and for many of them, it could be a make-or-break situation. Facing live flames and the physical exertion required to haul gear into the wildlands takes its toll. 

“We do get a number of recruits that didn’t know what to expect and they decide it isn’t their career path, and that’s fine,” Brunton told FOX40. “This is a good time to find out early on in their career.”

A close eye is kept on wind and weather conditions before and during training. Fire lines are precut and the fuel loads and terrain are examined carefully before anything is lit. 

“This time of year, as dry as it is, and particularly this year, we’re very careful of how we do live fire,” Brunton said.

Recruits benefit from unexpected spots and flare-ups. 

“It’s great because it becomes an actual reaction drill for our firefighters and it’s just like almost the closest thing to fighting a hostile fire,” Brunton explained.

Recruits are likely to see plenty of that before the year is out. 

“With our drought conditions, everything is setting itself up for a potential real bad fire season,” Brunton told FOX40.

Cal Fire says it plans to continue its live fire training for the next few days as weather conditions allow.

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