New recruits will be fighting a live brush fire in Bishop as part of a training exercised designed to give the volunteers some much-needed experience.
Bishop Fire Chief Ray Seguine said the volunteer fire department is planning to ignite a fire in the vacant lot on the northwest corner of the intersection Yaney and Spruce streets to simulate a wildland fire, something the new recruits will likely experience this spring.
Seguine said a wildland fire experience cannot be simulated at the department’s training facility on East Line Street.
“We got nine new volunteers just in the last couple months,” Seguine said. “We’ve been doing a lot of extra training to get them on board faster. We want to do this training before the wildland fire season.”
Seguine said that local volunteer firefighters often respond to wildland fires as an assisting agency for the U.S. Forest Service and CalFire. He said the Bishop Volunteer Fire Department is also the lead agency on wildland fires in the local fire district, which extends beyond the city limits.
The training exercise is tentatively scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 29, but Seguine said that is dependant on receiving permission from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which owns the property, and on wind, weather and other factors.
The fire department is planning to ignite one or more small fires, no less than 1,000 by 1,000 square feet, to train the new recruits.
Seguine said the area is ideal for the training because it has a variety of fuels, such as sage and rabbit brush and lighter grasses, that firefighters will encounter in wildland fires, but they are not dense enough to create hazards for residents or trainees.
Seguine said every effort will be made to prevent smoke from blowing into the city-owned Sunrise Mobile Home Park just west of the training field. “I’m not going to dump a lot of smoke on them,” Seguine said. “My goal is not to burn the entire field off. We’ll start a light fire, let it grow a little and let them extinguish it, it’s not going to be very big.”
The fire department has provided Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District with its plan for the training exercise. “Great Basin is always good about allowing us to train,” Seguine said. “And it’s not like we’re doing this every weekend.
“We’ll have engines all around it, and I assure you, it won’t get away from us,” Seguine said.
Seguine added that ideal conditions would be a light north, south or west wind that would drive smoke away from homes, but he said there are a lot of variables that could prompt him to cancel the exercise, including precipitation that would prevent the field from burning, high winds or volunteers’ busy holiday schedules.
Seguine said that the burned areas of the field will begin to grow back this spring, with light, green grass.
The training is tentatively planned for the Saturday after Christmas in hopes of attracting as many of Bishop’s 40 volunteer firefighters as possible.
Seguine said the nine new volunteers he hopes to train are part of the typical ebb and flow of volunteer firefighters. Seguine said the fire department has been advertising for new firefighters through Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant funding, but none of the department’s new volunteers joined because of those advertisements. He did say that the ads have generated quiet a bit of interest, but most of that interest has been from out-of-the-area residents. When fielding those calls, Seguine said he directs the interested party to their local volunteer fire department.