Alaska firefighters receive tactical wildland fire training
Course teaches chainsaw safety, operation, maintenance and tree felling in regard to combatting and preventing wildfires
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - With wildfire season just on the horizon in Alaska, firefighters from both Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson and the Anchorage Fire Department recently participated in a chainsaw training program to become Sawyer certified. The course — hosted on base in Anchorage — consisted of one day of classroom instruction followed by two days of in-field training.
The class, taught by JBER Wildland Support Module firefighter and equipment operator Matthew Allen, teaches the basic principles of chainsaw safety, operation, maintenance and tree felling in regard to combatting and preventing wildland fires.
“Fires need fuel to burn, the trees are the fuel. How do you remove the trees is chainsaws and other equipment,” Allen said. “They’re a big piece for us.”
A chainsaw is a simple, yet tactical piece of equipment that is frequently used in wildland firefighting operations. According to Allen, going through a certification process is needed in order to use them to fight a wildfire. It’s a certification that both AFD firefighter Joey Casey and JBER Fire Dept. firefighter and EMT Daniel Gerome were interested in obtaining.
“I’ve cut down some trees before on my property, but I was always wondering, ‘Is this the right way to do it?’” Gerome said. “By doing this class, not only am I learning the proper way to operate a chainsaw but also a way of how to do it on a wildland fire.”
While AFD doesn’t necessarily fight wildfires on a frequent basis, Casey — a six-year firefighter for Station 6 with an additional five years in the fire service — considers the training applicable.
“As you know — Anchorage hillside, Elmore — we’ve had a few fires here in the last few years there and it really just points to we need to be a little bit more prepared for it,” Casey said.
Dressed in personal protective equipment such as hardhats, chaps, glasses and earplugs, the firefighters from both departments worked to take down dead trees in a wooded area on the military base Thursday morning. Oftentimes, JBER firefighters are the first to respond when a wildland fire ignites in the state.
“We are one of the first people to go out on scene because we already have our gear, have our equipment and ready to go out there and fight that fire before the State of Alaska can gather their hot shots and their organized fire crews to go out and continue the firefighting activities,” Gerome said.
This was the first time Gerome sought certification after serving in the Air Force for 12 years as a firefighter only to return to the department for a civilian job.
“I couldn’t get away from it,” Gerome said. “I enjoyed the firefighting, I enjoyed the people I was working with, I enjoyed JBER as the department, and wanted to come back and continue to keep serving.”
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