[KHTS] – With the ongoing drought and a year-round fire season, Santa Clarita Valley residents can at least rest assured that local firefighters are well-prepared.
Every year, during the month of May, local Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel gather in the hills behind Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic for live fire training and drills.
The goal is to treat these drills as if they were a real brush fire, said Greg Hisel, acting assistant fire chief for Division III.
“Live fire really puts an element of intensity to it that we don’t get otherwise,” he said.
When and where fire personnel decide to light the fires all depends on brush and weather conditions. A day that is hot or windy could cause the fire to grow too quickly and get out of hand.
Typically, they run drills every weekday through May, Hisel said, but only as conditions allow.
On Wednesday, dozens of firefighters and inmate camp crews from Pitchess worked there way up a hillside, putting out spot fires and clearing brush.
Before starting the live burn, personnel had cleared a perimeter to prevent the fire from spreading beyond the controlled area.
Partway through the exercise, the wind picked up, which Hisel said made the firefighters’ task a little more difficult and heightened the need for communication, in case the fire jumped or changed directions.
Hands-on training is an important part of these drills, but coordination and cooperation between all personnel is also crucial, Hisel said.
Firefighters from L.A. City Fire Department and Glendale Fire Department also joined the exercise, just like they would in a real incident.
“When a wildland fire breaks out, it’s never in one agency’s territory,” Hisel said.
On a different site, firefighters practiced structure protection, dousing a storage bin and horse trailer in water and foam to make them more flame retardant.
For residents who live in rural areas surrounded by brush, the best way to protect homes against a fire is to clear a 30-foot perimeter around any structures.
Hisel also stressed the importance of evacuating early if there is a brush fire in the area, bringing any valuables and important medications.
Division III started training with live burn drills about three years ago, Hisel said.
“It’s been tremendous on how much it’s helped,” he said, by putting stress on the firefighters in a realistic but safe environment.
For more information about the Los Angeles County Fire Department and their Wildfire Action Plan for residents, click here.