Sixty firefighters get hands-on wildfire training at Fire Camp

National Park Service staff member (l-r) Loniel Lee of Dover, Harry Dillman of Pennsylvania’s Chester Township Fire Company and Thomas Caffery of Slaughter Beach’s Memorial Fire Co. listen to the Delaware Forest Service’s Erich Burkentine of Milton as he leads a training session on chainsaw operation at the agency’s 18th annual Fire Camp. SOURCE SUBMITTED
April 30, 2013

Sixty volunteer firefighters attended the Delaware Forest Service’s 18th Annual Fire Camp April 20 at Blackbird State Forest for an intensive one-day training session that tested their physical stamina and mental preparation, and culminated with a hands-on, live-burn fire simulation.

As the capstone of the Forest Service’s wildfire training, successful completion of the program leads to coveted red-card certification from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, which makes attendees eligible for out-of-state fire assignments. Last year, Delaware dispatched personnel to fight wildfires in Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho.

The day began shortly after 7 a.m. with an arduous pack test, which requires crew members to complete a three-mile course in under 45 minutes while carrying a 45-pound pack. From there, participants rotated through how-to sessions on wearing fire protective gear, deploying an emergency fire shelter, communicating on the fire line, operating a chainsaw and completing required documents.

The afternoon’s activities focused on conducting a carefully controlled simulated burn exercise at a nearby forest tract, putting the group’s classroom skills to practical use on a real fire.

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