Thursday, March 6, 2008

Scottsdale, 2 Day-Exercise, 25 Fire Agencies

KPHO.com has the story:
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- More than 25 statewide fire agencies, fearing an active wildfire season, are taking part in a major training exercise at McDowell Mountain Regional Park in Scottsdale.

They are learning how to work together to protect the land, homes and lives when the brush fire season starts in mid-April.

Firefighters said they believe that the aggressive growth of desert grasses triggered by soaking winter rains will spell danger once the vegetation dries out in hotter weather.

"We're expecting a pretty active desert fire season," said Mike Guardado, one of the firefighters involving in the training. "We're getting to know each other and getting to know each other's equipment."

Guardado spent four years fighting fires for the U.S. Forest Service. He said he knows the dangers and difficulties when flames meet dry brush.

"It's pretty challenging," he said. "It can be frightening at times, especially working with hand tools when there's no water around."

While crews are training to protect homes and land, they're also learning to protect themselves.

Last year, crews across the state battled 1,926 wildfires devouring 63,908 acres, according to the Arizona State Forestry Division. That was a dramatic decrease from the 3,080 wildfires seen in 2006 that burned more than 152,000 acres.

The two-day training event, which ends Thursday, is an effort by the Scottsdale Fire Department and the Central Arizona Wildland Response Team.

The team is a consortium of approximately 15 fire agencies in central Arizona that participate in state and nationwide wildland fire response.

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