Field Days Prep Students, Volunteers to Fight Fire

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QUINCY, California – June 1, 2016 – Local high school students alongside volunteer firefighters met near Portola and Quincy for three field days that gave them the chance to experience a day in the life of a firefighter.

Fire staff from the Mt. Hough Ranger District taught a Wildland Fire Training class (“Basic 40”) to a Quincy High School Natural Resource class and Community School students. The firefighters’ counterparts on the Beckwourth Ranger District taught the class to Portola High School Fire Science students. Members of the Graeagle and Beckwourth Volunteer Fire Departments joined the students for the field days.

The course culminated in a practical field exercise where students used their newly-acquired skills. The Quincy course held its field day March 18, and the Portola course May 1 and 15. Engine Crews, Fire Prevention Crews, and Hotshot Crews from both ranger districts conducted the training.

The final day of the Portola course, participants received an extra dose of realism in the form of a California Highway Patrol helicopter that assisted them in learning about hoisting and aircraft operations on an incident.

Field days are designed to give current and future firefighters hands-on experience that simulates fire-line operations. They include exercises in constructing hand line, using firing devices, navigating in wilderness terrain, reading weather patterns, and implementing hose lays.

This year’s Basic 40 courses were offered to high school students because of a partnership between the Plumas Unified School District (PUSD) and the Plumas National Forest Fire Restoration Program.

“It’s important for future firefighters to train in their own backyard,” said Michele Jimenez-Holtz, Education Liaison for the Mt. Hough Ranger District. “Because they’re locals, they have a connection with the landscape and know it pretty well already.”

The Fire Science class at Portola High School introduces students not only to methods of firefighting, but also to basic ecology and the role fire plays in high Sierra ecosystems. A key part of this is learning what the Forest Service is doing to reintroduce fire responsibly, decreasing the likelihood of a catastrophic wildland fire.

The PHS students are scheduled to observe a prescribed burn as one of the culminating events of the class—but some might get even closer to fire this summer. After the field day and a Work Capacity Test gauging their physical fitness, most students will qualify as members of the Plumas National Forest On-Call Crew.

For these students, their firefighting experience may last a season or two, or become the first step in a long-term career with the Forest Service.

A special thank you is due to all Forest Service and California Highway Patrol employees who taught Basic 40 classes and conducted the field days, as well as to PUSD teachers Mike Cadicamo, Ron Logan, and Brad Miller.