It’s approaching 90 degrees on a freakishly warm afternoon in mid-February.
Wearing turnouts and carrying supplies including personal emergency shelters, a dozen firefighters from three agencies climb up a dusty single-track trail in Santiago Oaks Regional Park, just west of the 241 toll road near Villa Park.
Yes, it’s a workout — but that’s the point.
The mid-winter training session, led by Capt. Jerry George and Firefighter James Moreta of Anaheim Fire & Rescue, was designed to prepare firefighters who spend most of their time in urban areas for the specialized art of battling wildfires.
Firefighters from Orange City, Garden Grove and Anaheim Fire & Rescue spent the morning of Feb. 13 in radio class and the afternoon learning about forming a hand crew in the event of a wildland blaze.
Several sessions of what is known as an RT-130 Exercise were held over the ensuing weeks and months.
And with Wildfire Awareness Week (May 3-9) just around the corner, the training sessions were timely.
“We don’t want to be sheep walking into a slaughter,” Moreta told participants gathered under a canopy during a briefing before the hot, hilly hike.
Using laminated handouts and a flipchart, George and Moreta stressed the importance of being prepared before venturing out on a hand crew.
For example, carrying enough water is crucial but you don’t want to be lugging around too much stuff, they said.
A bee sting kit.
These were among several items firefighters were urged to carry.
“Don’t forget your sunglasses,” George said.
Not every fire agency has the opportunity of having its own trained strike team, so such multi-agency wildfire training is important, Moreta said.
“Being prepared will make your strike team that much better,” Moreta said.
Having a plan, a person in charge of the hand crew and a communication strategy is vital, Moreta and George said.
The firefighters who huffed it up the Mountain Goat and Bumble Bee trails practiced getting into and out of emergency shelters and taking measurements of relative humidity and the wind, and logging the information down for weather reports that need to be updated hourly.
They also were warned about how quickly a wildfire can move.
“How far can you run in minute?” Moreta asked the firefighters on a steep hill.
“If anyone wants to give it a shot, you’re welcome to go for it.”
Editor’s note: Anaheim Fire & Rescue reminds residents they are invited this Saturday, May 2, to Community Wildfire Preparedness Day at Anaheim Fire Station 10 (click here for story) from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.. The event will include preparing an area for the city’s first FireSafe Demonstration Garden. Station 10 is located at 8270 E. Monte Vista, Anaheim, and interested volunteers are asked to RSVP to Natalie Sanchez at 714-765-4066. Volunteers are encouraged to bring gloves and wear and hat and sunscreen.