Dozens of volunteer firefighters from around Oklahoma gathered in Grady County this weekend to train to battle wildfires. The class comes ahead of what is expected to be a severe fire season locally, but it will also give them skills to help other states.
Wildfires are ravaging southern California right now, and despite having thousands of firefighters there to help, there is still no end in sight.
The Oklahoma Standard of helping others is no exception for firefighters. Over the past year of massive wildfires across the western United States, the help was much needed.
“It was all hands on deck,” says Andy James, a Community Fire Assistance Program forester with the Oklahoma Division of Forestry Services, "and there were times when we couldn’t get enough resources in some of the states where we were trying to fight fire."
Through this Forestry Service course, though, veteran and rookie firefighters alike are able to become certified to cross state lines. 23 of the 40 attendees successfully completed the physical qualifier.
“Once they finish this course,” James says, "then they will be issued what’s called a 'red card.'"
The rest of the men and women are still gaining knowledge to use right here at home.
“I’ve been a firefighter for approximately 30 years,” says Grady County Fire Department district chief Buddy Myers, who helped organized the class.
“I’ve learned new and valuable information that I’ll be able to put into play next week should we happen to have a fire.”
The prospects are looking very dry for the months to come.
James says, “A lot of our organizations that we depend on for weather and forecasting, they’re all on the same page.”
Heavy rains earlier this year followed by a dry fall produced masses of tinder just waiting to burn. Once it sparks, volunteer fire departments need to have the skills to properly respond. Because volunteer firefighters are not at the station when a call comes in, Myers says, “It gives the fires a head start, and it’s more difficult to put out when the fire load is heavy and the conditions are dry.”
The firefighters hope you can help too by reducing burning and using common sense.
James says, “I have a feeling this coming spring we’re all going to be in this fight together.”
The Forestry Service recommends firefighters practice these skills annually. To find or schedule an upcoming class for your department, contact the Community Fire Assistance Program by clicking here.