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March firefighters train for wildfire season

A special team of firefighters and engineers from March Field Fire Emergency Services, received wildland fire line refresher training to maintain certification in wildland fire fighting, at the March Air Reserve Base fire station, May 3.


The team is comprised of 20 volunteers, who must have annual training consisting of 8 hours of classroom instruction, getting into a fire shelter within 30 seconds and passing a pack test, which is a three-mile walk, with 45 pounds of weight in under 45 minutes, said Chris Fowler, wildland training coordinator, March Field Fire Emergency Services.


The base fire station has a mutual aid agreement with Riverside County and the city of Riverside and once the training is complete the team will be qualified to continue providing off-base fire fighting assistance.


"They're the ones who do what we call wildland urban interface, said Kile Stewart, chief, March Field Fire Emergency Services. "We send an engine to a housing area and they go in there and protect the homes, then our water tender will go out and resupply the trucks that are on the fire line."


Since 1998 March firefighters have provided off-base support 15 times a year on average, said Stewart.


To ensure that critical aid continues Cal Trans Fire Captain, Robert Wood, provided the wildland fire training to the team. He has been teaching the course for nine years and conducts about a dozen classes a year.


The refresher covered all aspects of wildland fires, including safety gear, personal gear, weather factors, regulations, radio communication, bull dozers, working with inmates and taking refuge in a vehicle and fire shelters.


"The training went great, everyone was very open, asked a lot of good questions and were eager to learn," said Wood.


Everyone passed the class, allowing March firefighters to keep providing crucial assistance in off-base fire fighting. In addition to the added knowledge base, the annual training helps maintain the close working relationship with Cal Fire personnel.


"We partner really good with them because we work together, Wood said. "We use their expertise for aircraft fires and we'll bring our guys over to learn and train with them."


Jonathon Sandvig, engineer, March Field Fire Emergency Services, has been on the team since 2000 and went out to fight wild land fires twice last year, emphasized the importance of the training too.


"When we get these larger wildfire campaigns where they need a strike team, we pair up with four other engines and that is what this training is specifically for."


He went on to say the training is a beneficial set of additional skills that can also be used at home station.


"This is primarily specialized training for our mutual aid agreements, but we have small grass areas here so it is applicable to base too," he said.


California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued a proclamation declaring May 7-13, 2017 as "Wildfire Awareness Week" in the State of California. To read the full proclamation please visit



For information on steps to protect lives, homes and families in the event of a wildfire, visit www.ReadyForWildfire.org