Troops train to fight wildfires
A deadly and destructive fire season in the West has prompted military troops to begin firefighting training
A team from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) is training more than 1,000 Fort Carson soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
The training includes classroom instruction and five hours of field training on fire behavior, safety equipment and firefighting technique.
"We're training them in hand tool use, fire line construction, weather, all the fundamental components of wild land firefighting," said Michelle Ryerson, member of the NIFC.
Hotshot crews from out of state are also helping to train soldiers.
Brian Anderson, member of the Bear Divide Hotshots out of Santa Clarita, California, said when wild land agencies get busy and are spread so thin, it's comforting to know back up in on the way.
"It actually gives us a little piece of mind personally," said Anderson.
Anderson said the No.1 priority in training is safety.
"It's integrated into every bit of training we got through," he said.
One of the soldiers going through training said it's very similar to other military training, with one difference, the enemy.
"The enemy here being fire and really, in many cases, the weather and terrain," said 1st Sgt. Michael Conaty.
Major Jason Eddy said firefighting preparation is different than military training, but the objective is the same.
"As army soldiers, we like to think we're adaptable. We're used to dealing with change, making decisions and adjusting to complete the mission" said Eddy.
Michelle Ryerson, a member of NIFC, said fire crews are currently holding their own.
"We're at a planning level four. The highest level is five," said Ryerson.
However, Ryerson said crews are picking up fires everyday and believes putting these soldiers through early training will be beneficial.
"I think its important. This will put them ahead of the power curve should we need to mobilize the military. It will expedite getting them to the fire lines, " said Ryerson.
She also said if the center asks for help, the soldiers would get additional training and personal protective equipment and could be deployed anywhere in the U.S.
Copyright 2012 KRDO. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.