SPFD drills in brush fire fighting

July 28, 2000
Santa Paula News
As the days grow hotter and once green vegetation dries, the Santa Paula Fire Department had a special drill to sharpen their skills in fighting brush fires, staging in the area of Mill Park. The normal SPFD schedule for training is on the first three Wednesdays of each month, according to Chief Paul Skeels; two nights are spent concentrating on firefighting, engine operation and equipment, and one night is spent on general training for medical response, including use of the life-saving defibrillator.Due to the fact “We’re in brush fire season it seemed a good idea to drill on the hose extension for brush fires,” he noted.Hose extension for brush fires is greatly different from a house fire: brush fires need long lengths of hose to be rapidly extended across difficult terrain, the “type of work we have to do in that kind of a fire. . .Mill Park seemed like a good area to work at,” said Chief Skeels. “In a nutshell, we parked engines along the east side of the park in the parking area and also placed engines in the parking lot behind the Latter Day Saints-Mormon Church, south of Mill Park.”The purpose of the exercise for the firefighting crews in both locations was to extend hose lines to the foot of “Hospital Hill” and then back up the steep grade, “As if there was a brush fire we were trying to contain from both sides. . .to meet up towards the upper part of the hill and below the houses on Mill Street,” in about the 500 block, he added.In all, there were about 20 firefighters at the drill and all five of the department’s engines; Rescue Engine 12 remained on standby duty in case of a real call.It’s tough training: “It involves a lot of work and activity and huffing and puffing but the objective is to quickly and effectively extend the hose to keep the water flowing,” to a fire.
The hose activity also has to carefully coordinated with the engineers who stays with the engines and operate hose flow as the different flanks of firefighters battle the blaze.“Am I worried about fire season? I’m always worried about it,” said Chief Skeels. “Something in our climate I’ve never seen is rain throughout the summer so vegetation never dries out. . .yes, I’m concerned about the fire season.”Not only is the SPFD going to great lengths to train firefighters, but, “More importantly, people can mitigate or reduce vegetation so we won’t have a fire to deal with. The department also goes to great lengths to get reasonable compliance,” for weed abatement, especially those “large lots and those that border hillsides and barrancas, other places where fires can become uncontrolled and present a threat to houses. I’m very worried about brush fires, it goes with my job.”And, Chief Skeels added, appearances can be deceiving: There’s “still some green out there but it’s quite dry and will undoubtedly get drier late August and September. October is our driest month and the most potentially dangerous with the dry, east winds we get.”

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