MADERA COUNTY — Cal Fire conducted a relatively rare live-fire training course Saturday and Sunday in Chowchilla.
Participants in the weekend class — called State Fire Marshal Fire Control 3A — came from the Cal Fire Madera-Mariposa-Merced Unit (MMU) and included individuals from Madera County Fire, Madera City Fire, Mariposa County Fire, Merced County Fire, Atwater City Fire, California Department Correction Rehabilitation, Chowchilla Womens Facility and Valley State Prison.
Madera County Assistant Fire Chief Matt Watson says the exercise came about after the Madera County Public Works Department reached out to Cal Fire officials and offered them an opportunity to use an abandoned structure at the landfill before it was demolished.
“This allowed us to provide training we normally don’t get — and reduced the cost to the county for removing the structure,” Watson notes. “It’s been at least four or five years since we were able to get this sort of training.”
The goal of the controlled structure fire operation was to complete the final training for 21 new firefighters from the Madera County and Mariposa County Basic Skills Academy and Merced College Academy — and qualify an additional four instructors in Fire Control 3A training, according to Watson.
A total of 25 students and 12 instructors took part in the 16-hour exercise, which was located at 21858 Road 19 ½ in Chowchilla.
“On Sunday, we did live fire evolution within the building.”
Before the burn took place, Red Rock I Caglia Environmental prepped the property around the structure, removing trees and other potentially flammable vegetation.
The 3A training course is designed to allow firefighters to develop fundamental skills in combating structure fires by providing participants with a thorough understanding of fire behavior, ventilation procedures and techniques, interior fire attack and exterior fire attack.
In many cases, the training serves as novice firefighters’ first exposure to live structural fire fighting.
Structures used for the class are generally donated or abandoned buildings.
Watson is very pleased with the results of the weekend training.
“Getting certification to teach this 3A training class is extremely difficult to attain,” he said. “It’s great because over the weekend, we got four additional instructors certified.”
Cal Fire Training Battalion Chief Mike Mills served as the master instructor for the course, which, according to Watson, was successfully completed by all participants.