Wildland Fire Skills Training Day

From the Sedona Red Rock News, 04/03/2017

Fire knows no boundaries, which is the exact reason for exercises like the one held on Wednesday, March 29.

The Verde Valley All Hazards Training Association sponsored the third annual Wildland Fire Skills Training Day at the Crescent Moon day-use area just southwest of Sedona.

Agencies from around the Verde Valley turned out, including the Sedona Fire District, U.S. Forest Service, Verde Valley Fire District, Copper Canyon Fire and Medical Authority, Jerome Fire Department, Cottonwood Fire Department and representatives from Coconino and Yavapai counties.

photo courtesy of the Sedona Red Rock News

The Copper Canyon Fire and Medical Authority is a joint agency comprised of the Camp Verde Fire District and Montezuma-Rimrock Fire District created last year.

The training took place just east of Crescent Moon Ranch near Lower Loop and Chavez Ranch roads. After a large pile of dried grass was burned, the exercise involved a controlled burn of tall Johnson grass. For training purposes the burn was divided into three sections and lasted just minutes when lit, thanks to a light breeze in the area. In all, about 75 personnel took part.

Nicole Branton, district ranger for the Red Rock Ranger District, said it’s important to bring these agencies together so that when real events happen — such as the Slide Fire — they’re prepared to work with one another.

“We’re practicing together with the same urgency as if it were an actual event,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity before the season begins to train together as a bit of a refresher as we work out the kinks.”

To respond to any unforeseen circumstances, several Type III and Type VI fire engines were present. In addition, the Sedona Fire District had authorized a drone to monitor closed hiking trails and to look for and identify any fire activity outside the burn perimeter. The Sedona Police Department was also present during part of the drill.

Organizers expected smoke would be visible in the Sedona area, especially to the east in the Village of Oak Creek. Again, due to the breeze, the smoke dissipated quickly but the smell of smoke was in the air miles away.

Upon the incident’s completion, a  review was held to educate participants on the successes and areas needed for improvement. Areas of emphasis included the role of dispatch, which transfers from local to federal authorities, and improved interagency radio communications.

SFD Assistant Chief Jeff Piechura said drills like this are crucial, especially when so many of the communities in the valley are highly susceptible to forest or wildland fires.

“This allows us to look at what type of equipment other agencies have as well as the type of expertise we all have,” he said. “This way we can determine the best use for those tools when we are working together.”