Fire drill in the park

   Fire drill in the park

28 April 2009

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USA — The firefighters flanked the flames from three sides, north, south and west. They came rushing at it with hoses, donning full gear and ready to battle the hot-spot that could spark a second front for this wildfire.

While the flames didn’t actually exist, and the wildlands they charged through were actually a Costa Mesa park, they treated as if it were the real thing. The best way to deal with the real situation is to prepare, and department officials said it’s more important than ever with what will likely be another year of moving up and down the state as the need occurs to help douse out-of-control wildfires that spark in hot, dry conditions.

Through the rest of this week, teams of firefighters from Newport-Mesa will go at Tanager Park, once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and re-train themselves in the fundamentals of fighting fires in the wilderness where conditions are unpredictable and always dangerous.

“When you work in a wild land, forest environment, things change,” said Kirk Dominic, head of training for Costa Mesa fire.

Because of the changing environment, firefighters Tuesday practiced essentials of attacking a blaze, communicating and preparing for the worst.

First they practiced flanking flames in the center of the park, then they worked on their communication skills by working as a team to walk on long planks of wood. It’s a humorous sight that the firefighters seemed to evoke laughs, but the message was anything but comical.

“It might look silly, but the drill takes into account other things people take for granted. They need communication, teamwork,” Dominic said.

Later, firefighters worked together to read a topographical map and re-create the landscape in a sand pit there. The more they understand a changing landscape, the better they can anticipate a fire’s behavior and prepare how to battle the flames. Finally, they rehearsed covering up to protect themselves from flames.

Officials said every firefighter in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa will have gone through the drills by the end of Saturday, totaling about 230 firefighters.

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