Rookie firefighters learn the skills they'll need to battle wildland blazes

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By Jay Michaels

FAIRFIELD, ID (KMVT) Even though the fire season hasn't officially started here in Southern Idaho yet, plenty of experienced Idaho firefighters are already battling blazes out of state like the big fire in Arizona. We talked with some the rookies that are training to fill those firefighting positions here in the Gem State.

Just over 30 miles north of Fairfield, almost 50 rookie fire fighters from the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service are learning the ropes of their new summer job. They're putting what they've learned in the classroom this week into practice on the fire line.

Fuels Planner Tony Davis from the Fairfield Ranger District says those things include, "How to do their fire packs, how to sharpen their tools, how to use their tools, pumps, hoses, all the accoutrements that forest firefighters are expected to use. They get a brief training on that in the beginning."

Davis says federal agencies have been putting out fires for the last hundred years, which has thrown the ecology's balance out of whack by allowing a large buildup of dead trees in the forest that are ready to burn. He says this fire south of the Methodist Camp on the South Fork of the Boise River will burn less than an acre.

Rookie firefighter Jeff McConnell from Boise says, "I'm learning a lot more about communication, teamwork, working to really fight fire aggressively, providing safety first, learning new job tasks."

McConnell says you can learn quite a bit in the classroom, but getting hands–on experience by actually doing the work is where you get your knowledge. Davis says these firefighters are learning how hard it is to dig fire lines through branches and anything that burns all the way down to the dirt.

He says, "There will be a couple of trees that get torched here, that means the needles burn off. But it's an excellent look for the new recruits when the actually see what's gonna happen on a wildland fire."

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