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Smoke and dead tree at Eastman Lake Fire Training - photo by Jaime Williams

Cal Fire Trains For Upcoming Fire Season At Eastman Lake

MARIPOSA — Over 100 firefighters from the Cal Fire Madera-Mariposa-Merced Unit participated in live fire training at Eastman Lake this week, ahead of what is sure to be a challenging fire season.

The training was held May 22 and 24 as one component of Cal Fire’s summer preparedness drill, and included 25 engines, 4 crews and 2 dozers, along with Helicopter 404 out of the Tuolumne-Calaveras Unit.

Madera County Fire Engine 15 out of Raymond provided monitoring and patrol of the 170-acre burn, and Cal Fire’s Volunteers In Prevention communicated information to the public along the lake.

Over two long days, firefighters trained on some of the techniques used during fire season. There were two main courses, one taking place at the Day Use Area, and one on the south side of the lake.

The first part of the training was beginning firing techniques, teaching firefighters, new engineers and captains how to burn out fuel between themselves and the main fire to create a buffer.

The second portion focused on mobile attack, where an engine drives through the vegetation with a firefighter walking along with a short hose, putting the fire out as they go. Another firefighter with a hand tool picks up anything that may have been missed.

While our local firefighters were going through their paces at Eastman Lake, the need for emergency response continued across the Unit. In order to maintain normal response levels, Cal Fire engines from other Units were brought in to cover local stations, including three from Lassen-Modoc and two from Butte. Madera County PCFs were also called up to man stations as needed.

The fact that firefighters were involved in important training exercises didn’t diminish the need for fire, medical, accident and other emergency response. On Monday, May 24, during the hours of training, resources responded to 36 calls. On Wednesday, there were 59 dispatches during training hours.

At one point, Engine 15 and one Cal Fire engine were dispatched from the training for cover and response as multiple incidents occurred in the Valley.

On June 12, Cal Fire will enter peak fire season, says Prevention Officer Jaime Williams, and the Unit will be staffed with approximately 100 firefighters across 11 stations, with 17 front line engines.

“This year so far, over 920 fires have already scorched more than 15,000 acres,” says Williams. “With the widespread tree mortality and very tall grass due to the winter rains, the threat of devastating wildfire is just one spark away.”

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Troy Cheek says that on Tuesday, May 30, all burning below 3,000 ft. will be banned, so this is the last weekend for residents to do any debris burning. But as always, remember that just because it’s a burn day doesn’t mean it’s safe to burn! Be vigilant and aware of wind and weather conditions in your area.

As the weeks progress, the situation will be monitored and reevaluated, and the ban will be raised to 4,000 ft. At some point a state-wide ban is expected to be implemented.

Make sure you are ready for wildfire with these important resources, and download the Cal Fire app below.

(Photos courtesy of Jaime Williams. Thank you!)




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