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A fire burns through brush near the Carlos Hathcock rifle range aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., May 16. Fire fighters with Miramar Fire Department started the fires to test if conditions were correct for a controlled burn.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Johns

Heat is on for air station wildfire prevention and training

17 May 2013 | Lance Cpl. Christopher Johns 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

The Miramar Fire Department aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., conducted a controlled burn on East Miramar, May 16.
The fire department and the air station gain valuable fire-prevention knowledge by conducting this type of training exercise.
“We do these burns to help mitigate risk of a wildfire, train personnel and promote a positive environmental impact,” said Mr. Josh Allen, the fire department assistant chief of operations. “The use of these controlled burns is to reduce the potential for large fires to spread and destroy an area.”
The training fires destroy old vegetation, potential fuel for wildfires, in an area and the soil receives fertilization from the ashes. This allows new vegetation to grow unhindered, making the spread of wildfire less likely, while ensuring the air station and surrounding areas are at less risk for fires, explained Allen.
The fire department coordinates with base environmental departments, the Environmental Protection Agency and other base officials to obtain clearance to conduct the training.

After receiving consent, and weather permitting, a target area is scouted through the use of fire history and potentially dangerous areas where there is old vegetation can become fuel, explained Allen.

“Knowing the weather trends [of an area] is important, because high winds and dry conditions could make the fire difficult to contain,” said Allen.
In order to perform this kind of training the department also coordinates with local law enforcement and fire departments to notify them of the fire being conducted for training purposes. While these different outlets know this a training simulation, they are also prepared if further containment is needed.
Once an area is cleared for the exercise, the fire department conducts small test fires throughout the target area to see how the vegetation burns.
After conducting test fires, the entire area is then burned and controlled using multiple tactics.
Some of these tactics include fire fighters using back packs containing foam to smother the flames, shoveling dirt onto fires, water from hoses to contain the fire and surrounding areas preventing it from spreading. Atruck containing foam is also on-site if necessary, explained Allen.
With this invaluable training, the Miramar Fire Department and its fire fighters are prepared to contain a wildfire at a moment’s notice.