Brodie Farquhar: Stay up-to-date on wildfire-fighting knowledge
I’m pleased that Routt County residents will have a chance to learn how to protect themselves and their properties from the ravages of wildfire. There will be a free conference at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 11, at the Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat Springs.
If you think you’ve got basic knowledge about wildfires, how they function, how to stop them and how to protect yourself, well, your knowledge is a bit or a lot dated.
I know mine is.
About 15 years ago, my editor at the Casper Star Tribune gave me the week off to attend a week-long training course about wildfires. The local branch of the Bureau of Land Management was offering a course, which upon completion, entitled the students to a wildfire fighter Red Card. That Red Card meant that the holder had the basic training needed to do some hard work on the fireline and not get killed doing so.
Mind you, I was 52 at the time and not planning on hiring out as a BLM wildfire fighter. Looked way too much like brutally hard work, but I did want — as a natural resources journalist — to have better understanding about wildfires and how they’re fought and survived. All too fresh in my mind was the South Canyon Fire near Glenwood Springs that took the lives of 14 wildfire fighters on July 6, 1994.
We studied that and other fires where wildfire fighters had died.
We learned about the triangle of fire behavior, based on weather, topography and fuels. Firefighters can study how these variables work together or how the firefighters can use a variable to their advantage in fighting fire.
We learned about tools and tactics and how uncomfortable it can be to get hit by an airdrop of slurry. It’ll knock you down.
We learned how to sift through ashes for live coals and embers — with our bare hands.
We learned how to deploy and get into a fire shelter in a manner of seconds because, when the fire is rushing at you like a rushing train, that’s all you’ve got.
Thing is, all that I learned more than a decade ago is outdated. Fire seasons are year-round now. Temperatures are warmer now, earlier and later, more powerful and destructive.
Climate change is changing wildfires, putting the game on steroids. We’ve got to keep up.
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