Firefighters train near Bear Lake to prepare for wildfire season

Published: Tuesday, June 3 2014 1:10 p.m. MDT

About 80 firefighters from several different agencies trained near Bear Lake Friday and Saturday. In addition to honing their skills, a number of drills were done to test their equipment, in Laketown, Rich County, Friday, May 30, 2014.

Michael Anderson, Deseret News

LAKETOWN, Rich County — About 80 firefighters from all over northern Utah trained near Bear Lake during a recent two-day event as they prepare for the upcoming wildfire season.

"Within the next week or two, we're really gonna start breaking out everywhere," said Alex Pommier, a firefighter with the Department of Natural Resources.

While wildfires can behave unpredictably, Pommier said, many aspects are always the same.

"Water stays the same, your engine always works the same, the wind is always gonna blow," he said.

The training event was funded through the Utah Division of State Lands, Fire and Forestry, costing around $10,000. Fire agencies from Weber, Cache, Box Elder and Rich counties took part, along with the Bureau of Land Management.

"We always look at it as we're going to prepare for the worst fire season every spring," Weber Fire District Capt. Richard Cooper said. "Then we just hope for the best throughout the season."

Firefighters involved in the training range from rookies to seasoned veterans. In addition to honing their skills, a number of drills helped them test their equipment and make sure it was also ready for the next wildfire.

"It's nice to put your gear back on, make sure everything fits right," Pommier said. "This is like our lives at stake right now, and so the more and more we can practice it here, the safer we'll be when it becomes the real thing."

Throughout the Western United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting an average wildfire season. Cooper, however, said conditions in Utah right now vary widely.

"We had a cool, wet spring," he said. "Our fire fuels, our grasses have grown quite a bit, and those grasses are annuals, so those could pose a problem for us."

In addition, he said drought-like conditions in southern Utah have already led to some very dry brush. He also pointed out that some elements are simply impossible to predict.

"One thing they don't anticipate is the human element," Cooper said.

He warns that everyone needs to do their part in avoiding accidental fires.

Email: manderson@deseretnews.com

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