SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- Fire agencies from throughout the Central Coast participated in extensive training drills all day Tuesday.
For several hours at the Las Flores Ranch outside Orcutt, crews from Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties took part in Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) exercises.
"We do it every year here in the county," said Evan Scott, Santa Maria Fire Department battalion chief. "It's a drill to get everyone's feet wet, get everyone's kinks worked out with regard to wildland firefighting. We're preparing for a big season this year."
Firefighters were able to hone their skills at five different stations, with each training session lasting about 45 minutes.
"Each station is specific to a certain drill, whether it be structure protection, installing a progressive hose lay, or working with a helicopter," said Glen Dupont, Santa Barbara County Fire Department Captain.
Other training stations included mapping using the Avenza mapping technology, and mobile pumping.
"The next time we see some of these individuals, it might be 2 o'clock in the morning, somewhere off the side of a highway, so working in these conditions, where it's a little more sterile and we have some learning moments, it's good to get that worked out before we get the actual call," said Dupont.
Dupont added the personal connections made at training sessions like this one can made a huge difference when a real fire occurs.
"There's definitely some importance to that face-to-face relationship and getting to know these individuals on these engines before we meet them on the fireline," said Dupont. arning moments, it's good to get that worked out before we get the actual call."
Both Dupont and Scott agreed this year's fire season could be a challenging one. With a lack of rain during the winter months, to go along with persistent drought conditions, may make it a difficult period over the next several months.
"I've been doing this for about 25 years and it gets worse," said Scott. "The past 10 years, it's gotten worse every year, year after year. What we used to see back in the early 2000's, we're seeing pretty consistently now on a daily basis when we go out to these fires."
Participating agencies included the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Santa Maria Fire Department, CAL FIRE San Luis Obispo County, Fire Cities Fire Authority, Carpinteria/Summerland Fire Department, Montecito Fire Department, and U.S. Forest Service.