Firefighters from across Virginia come to Franklin County for wildfire training, education

Current dry conditions make training especially more valuable

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. – Firefighters from across the state gathered in Franklin County this week to learn how to put out wildfires.

The Virginia Department of Forestry hosts the Wildland Fire Training Academy, where firefighters get valuable skills to be able to battle wildfires on the front lines. And in this drought, they say the timing couldn't be better.

They learn to extinguish wildfires by looking at the basic equation of what a fire needs to burn: oxygen, fuel and heat. If they take one of those things away, they can control the fire.

Instructor Randy Fleming says they start by cutting down trees and brush to create a fire line.

"It's pretty much just building a road around the fire," said Randy Fleming, forest technician and incident commander, Virginia Department of Forestry.

From there, they'll try to expand the fire line, extinguish the flame where they can and then wait for the rest of the fire to burn itself out.

"The fire, of course, will not burn through dirt. So, therefore, we always try to get it down to the bare mineral soil," Fleming said.

About 70 students from across Virginia, who work for different agencies, enrolled in the academy.

"These trainings are definitely really important in getting the confidence in executing these jobs safely," said Zoe McGee, stewardship technician, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Natural Heritage Division.

The extremely dry conditions across southwest Virginia makes this training even more vital.

"Difficulty in containing, that's more the issue of a drought, is how difficult it would be to contain the wildfire," said Bill Perry, area forester specialist, Virginia Department of Forestry.

They're training while they can, so they'll be prepared if the forest ever goes up in flames.

"We're really looking for some rain to come help us out with this," said Fleming.

The students spent a day in the classroom and two days getting hands-on experience.

Afterwards, they can take more wildfire classes and advance their training.


About the Author: