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Wildfire training turns to trial

Instructors check how well 9th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters deployed into their fire shelters.

Instructors check how well 9th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters deployed into their fire shelters on Beale Air Force Base, California, May 29, 2020. In the event that firefighters are unable to escape a wildfire, they are trained to deploy into fire shelters in a manner that maximizes their chances of survival. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jason W. Cochran)

9th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters practice cutting line.

9th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters practice cutting line on Beale Air Force Base, California, May 29, 2020. Working together, firefighters are capable of clearing the ground of flammable material, creating a firebreak. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jason W. Cochran)

9th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters run in response to a call of a wildfire on Beale Air Force Base.

9th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters run in response to a call of a wildfire on Beale Air Force Base, California, May 29, 2020. Partway through wildfire training, an actual wildfire started. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jason W. Cochran)

9th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters walk through a wildfire on Beale Air Force Base.

9th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters walk through a wildfire on Beale Air Force Base, California, May 29, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jason W. Cochran)

9th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters extinguish hot spots of a wildfire on Beale Air Force Base.

9th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters extinguish hot spots of a wildfire on Beale Air Force Base, California, May 29, 2020. Using the water stored onboard a fire engine, a firefighter will walk in front of the engine putting out hot spots while the driver follows. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jason W. Cochran)

th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters observe a wildfire on Beale Air Force Base.

9th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters observe a wildfire on Beale Air Force Base, California, May 29, 2020. The tools they carried were used for cutting line, which they had just practiced. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jason W. Cochran)

A 9th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter directs the driver up a slope on Beale Air Force Base.

A 9th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter directs the driver up a slope on Beale Air Force Base, California, May 29, 2020. Using the water stored onboard a fire engine, a firefighter will walk in front of the engine putting out hot spots while the driver follows. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jason W. Cochran)

Dennis Reinhardt points to the suspected cause of the fire, a malfunctioned power line component

Dennis Reinhardt, 9th Civil Engineer Squadron assistant fire chief, points to the suspected cause of the fire, a malfunctioned power line component on Beale Air Force Base, California, May 29, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jason W. Cochran)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

Northern California is an area prone to wildfires, which poses a hazard to both Recce Town’s members and assets.

To combat this threat, the 9th Civil Engineer Squadron’s (CES) Fire Department organized training with wildland fire experts May 29, 2020.  During the training, the firefighters were put to the test.

“We started the training with videos and lectures of instances that went wrong and broke it down,” said  Airman 1st Class Kira Krueger, 9th CES firefighter. “After that we transitioned outside to practicing with the shelters. Then we started line work which is using the tools we carry to make a space where the fire cannot burn, creating a barrier and stopping its growth. And then we saw smoke on the horizon.”

A wildfire had been spotted near the 9th Medical Group.

“We, engine 14, were the first on the scene,” Krueger said. “We hit the left flank of the fire. My crew chief told me to grab the handline and run it up and down the sides of the fire. It was a long day, we were out there for about 5 hours.”

Being well equipped, both physically and mentally, is crucial for Beale’s firefighters to perform at the level Recce Town needs them to.

“One thing that I didn’t expect was how fatigued I got,” said Krueger. “But all of those skills that we learned ahead of time I put every single one of them to use, except for the shelter thankfully.”

This training is important for all of Beale’s firefighters, but for Krueger, this training is of particular usefulness.

“For me, to have confidence in my job is important,” said Krueger. “Being a newbie and coming straight out of the academy, where they don’t teach us everything, it’s ideal to have experts come in and teach us exactly what to do and exactly what to expect.”

This training was the first in-person group training the firefighters had been able to do in months, Krueger said. Due to health guidelines concerning COVID-19, large portions of training have been moved online, making in-person training even more valuable.

“We need to be prepared for anything and everything. During training, we go over a lot of variations of what could happen. Practicing makes us faster out there and more knowledgeable about what’s happening so that people can believe in us and count on us to put it out safely and correctly.”

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