Fire Training

Reporting by WVUA 23’s Chelsea Barton.

Drought conditions continue in parts of Alabama, including in the Tuscaloosa area. Despite the small relief provided by recent rain showers, conditions are still extremely dry.

The Alabama Forestry Commission recently conducted training to prepare their firefighters to battle the inevitable blazes that come from such dry conditions.

 “It’ s a recipe to have a more active fire season,” said Brad Lang, a Unit Manager for the Alabama Forestry Commission. “We’ve got the dry weather. We are in drought conditions. Now, with these fronts coming through, the humidity is going to lower and make the fire more erratic and wind speeds pick up and push fires more erratically.”

Alabama Forestry Commission officials have reported over 600 wildfires since August 1, 2019, covering close to 6,400 acres. Fires have been reported in Hale, Sumter and Lamar counties.

This week, new forestry hires from around the state have been going through extensive training so they can protect themselves and their co-workers, especially during times of drought where fires can spread quickly and be even more dangerous.

“During these time frames, we are going to be on call more,” Forest Inventory and Analysis Forester Bonnie Coleman said. “We are going to have to be ready to respond at any time or place, so this training gives us an opportunity to look at all of  the different scenarios we might come across.”

New hires trained with tent like apparatuses called fire shelters that are used as a last resort to protect firefighters from blazes that can be extremely dangerous or even deadly.

“We are being taught how to open them up, deploy them, and get in them quickly and safely,” Coleman said. “You have to do it within a certain time frame and make sure that you are grounded. That way you are prepared when the fire comes.”

This is life-saving training, but the new forestry commission hires also mixed a little fun into the work.

“It was a lot of fun,” Coleman exclaimed. “In a lot of ways, it is a very serious thing if that is something that we really have to do, but they make it fun and it gives us an opportunity to ask all the questions we need so that if that ever became a real situation, we would be ready to go.”

New hires also learned about water usage and hand tools. The training will continue through the end of the week.

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