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RBC I Despite already being thrust into the field to battle wildfires, annual wildland fire training is continuing for new recruits and returning seasonal firefighters in northwest Colorado.
After a relatively moist spring, firefighters are already experiencing an above-average start to the fire season this year. The five-year average for the Northwest Colorado Unit is 245 fires totaling 13,105 acres, so crews are likely to be busy.
This season’s firefighting crews in Craig and Meeker are at full staffing levels.
Numerous hours are invested in in all aspects of preparing fire personnel for fireline duty as crew members, support forces and leadership roles. Everything from fireline safety, weather and fire behavior to signaling a helicopter for landing is covered.
Experienced fire fighters are paired with the new crew members as trainers and mentors to teach the most efficient methods for unrolling hose, mobile attacks, fire size-up and other basic duties. Drills to increase proficiency in handling equipment and response time have been occurring at Loudy Simpson Park in Craig.
Guidance and leader’s intent is also offered to fire personnel from agency and fire management officers regarding land management practices and issues. Important concerns, such as sage grouse, may impact fire suppression decisions and tactics, and crews need to be aware of special considerations. That being said, safety to public and the firefighters is always the No. 1 priority, regardless of other existing issues.
“These refreshers and classes are annual events that keep our firefighting forces current with qualifications and increase their skills whether it’s learning to operate a chain saw or decision-making on the fire line,” said Colt Mortenson, the NWCFMU fire management officer. “Another important element in our training is medical response since much of our work occurs in remote areas. We always prepare for the worst-case scenario.”
Much of the planning preparation includes the Craig Interagency Dispatch Center. Updating contact lists and protocols is a vital part of being prepared to respond.
Daily morning briefings began June 17. These are daily updates for all agency and cooperator fire responders and managers to keep abreast of available resources, weather and fire activity throughout the season.