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Annual Fire School prepares hundreds on Camp Pendleton

Firefighters extinguish nearly 300 fires on Camp Pendleton every year, making sharpened firefighting skills a critical job requirement.

To remain ready for the fast approaching fire season, more than 350 Southern California firefighters from 50 agencies recently participated in a training session at Camp Pendleton, June 7-11. The exercise gave firefighters a chance to practice teamwork by extinguishing fires in a controlled environment.

“The exercise was designed to involve firefighters in live fire-training drills that teach them how to work cooperatively in a wild-land fire scenario,” said Mike J. Wakoski, incident commander, Camp Pendleton Fire School, who also works as a fire chief with San Bernardino National Forest. “The end state is to create a safe and efficient wild-land firefighting force.”

During the scenarios, instructors started controlled fires, and had each crew focus on working together to starve the fire of its fuel, said Mike A. Godde, crew boss, Los Angeles Fire Department.

“Live fire-training is really valuable for firefighters to see how unpredictable fire can be,” said Godde, as he watched his crew section off a burn-zone, which ensures the fire does not spread to other areas.

Training will help fluidity between firefighters during a time of crisis, said Wykin K. Harris, lead firefighter, Engine 35, San Bernadino Forest Service.

“The exercise is vital for the new guys,” said Harris. “This training is an opportunity for them to see if they can handle the stress of the noise, the smoke, the fatigue.”

Not only is this training essential for participants, but it is also used by their superiors to practice leading the men into a real fire emergency.

“The fire school allows us to work out the kinks before the fire season rolls around,” said Fire Chief Jeff W. Wilkerson, deputy chief of operations, Camp Pendleton Fire and Emergency Services.

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