Sierra Front Fire Trains For Future Blazes

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With fire season underway, crews everywhere are sharpening their skills in anticipation of the next blaze.

But, while veterans are getting ready for another season, a handful of rookies are preparing for their first.

It's the final test for a 19-person Sierra Fire Seasonal Crew. For the past two weeks, the squad has been working together in a classroom, preparing for a 100-acre simulated fire.

They got their chance to show what they've learned.

"It's exciting," says Alex Gilmour, a trainee. "It's hard work though. You gotta keep on top of your stuff. I'm excited about what's coming up this summer."

Gilmour is one of ten crew members who are working together on a fire for the first time.

Just like a real blaze, crews are expected to find ways to deal with challenging conditions like wind and other uncertainties, which supervisors develop and communicate through their radios.

"The fire right now is creeping down the hill," says Mark Regan, a coordinator. "Our objective is to build a handline on the downhilll side of this fire and stopping it before it jumps the highway."

Crews started working up the hill to create a fire break, but one squad was forced to fall back to control a tree that caught fire. Soon, coordinators spread the word that the fire is coming back down the hill and getting out of control. The team scrambles for cover, but the fire has them surrounded, forcing them to deploy their shelters.

Two members were forced to share because of a lack of shelters. One of the unlucky guys is Christopher Dugger, a squad boss who's well over six feet.

"It's horrible," says Dugger. "It's very hot. And for a big guy, like myself, it's very uncomfortable."

Dugger is one of several experienced fire personell to participate in the drill. He and others like Brian Bumm of the Sierra Fire Protection District agree it's rewarding to see new people work together.

"It's exciting to be able to see the dynamics," says Bumm. "We really instill the leadership and they've come together. it's exciting to see them move on."