Fire drill in Oracle draws many firefighters

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See more photos online at http://bit.ly/14CFk56. (John Hernandez photos)

ByJohn Hernandez

The town of Oracle was the site of an interagency Wildland training exercise on Tuesday, Mar. 26. The drill was hosted by the U.S. Forest Service, Arizona State Forestry Division, and several local fire agencies from Pima and Pinal Counties. These agencies included the Oracle Fire Department, Casa Grande Fire Department, Eloy Fire District, Golder Ranch Fire District, and Northwest Fire district.

The training is designed to provide seasonal wildland firefighters and personnel assigned to the fire line, the chance to review safety standards and techniques used during state and national deployments. It gives the agencies the opportunity to meet each other and work together in a simulated emergency incident.

The training exercise was coordinated in the same way that an actual emergency incident is organized using the Incident Command System structure and incorporating the wildland fire teams for assignments. The incident commander for the drill was Captain Andy Miller of the Casa Grande Fire Department.

The training exercise lasted from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Between 150 and 200 firefighters from Southern Arizona participated in the drills in preparation for the upcoming wildfire season. Firefighters from as far away as Rio Rico, Goodyear, Benson and Maricopa participated in the drills.

The drill divided the attendees into four main Strike Teams/Task Forces. Each team/force was rotated through four different stations located throughout Oracle. At each station, the teams were provided different types of instruction lessons and hands on training. The activities and lessons included:

•Deployment of Emergency Fire Shelters – a last resort for firefighters trapped by wildfires. These new generation shelters can withstand direct flames and temperatures up to 300 degrees.

•Chainsaw Use and Safety Refresher – this included tree and limb characteristics as well as safe operation and maintenance of the chain saw.

•Wildland/Urban Interface Triage – overview of the procedures designed to save as many buildings as possible when wildland fires threaten urban structures.

•Deployment of Sprinkler Systems – techniques used to soak buildings and/or landscapes making them much less likely to ignite in a wildfire.

•Review and conduct Drafting Operations – delivery of needed water to remote areas for structure protection.

•Review of 10 Standard Fire Orders and 18 Watchout Situations – the specific orders and situations common to wildfires were reexamined and discussed.

The training allowed different agencies to network with one another and gave them the chance to look over a high hazard area for Wildland Urban Interface fires. The participants in these fire drills will be the first units on the scene to protect the residents and their property, should Oracle be threatened by a wildfire.

There is a chance that a large wildfire will one day threaten the town of Oracle. It is good to know that the Oracle Fire Department along with the U.S. Forest Service have been proactive with their brush abatement program, training and the Oracle Firewise program.

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