As summer is gearing up, the fire districts in Calaveras County have begun their annual wildland refresher training, which includes fire suppression techniques, fire shelter deployment, hose lay, mobile attack and more.
“We completed two RT-130 courses in March and April, which required all personnel to attend,” said Capt. Scott Hertzog of the Copperopolis Fire Protection District (CFPD). RT-130 training includes risk management, safety and survival, fire line construction, structure protection and more.
All fire districts carry out trainings throughout the year and often come together to train with other fire agencies and districts.
However, each district has added layers of training for their specific area and summer-readiness training can consist of so much more than wildfire and structure fire suppression. As the county offers a plethora of outdoor activities, the fire districts must stay on top of the myriad of possible medical and survival techniques, including water rescues.
The Ebbetts Pass Fire Protection District (EPFPD) covers 225 square miles of forests, lakes and streams, all of which can pose a possible risk to visitors and locals alike.
EPFPD holds refresher swift-water rescue courses annually to address the needs of persons caught in swift moving waters caused by rapid snowmelt or releases from reservoirs.
In an effort to save more lives during a water medical emergency, the EPFPD added powered watercraft to it emergency response vehicles last year.
“Last fall we conducted our first power watercraft training in preparation to deploy the agency’s first power watercraft this upcoming summer season if needed,” said Chief Mike Johnson.
The training was created by Battalion Chief Matt O’Donnell and covers deployment of the watercraft and effective water rescue techniques.
Calaveras Consolidated Fire Protection District (CCFPD) has three bodies of water in its boundaries, yet for assistance in serious water related emergencies, it relies heavily on neighboring Clements Fire District or the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office Water Rescue team, allowing firefighters to focus on fire suppression training.
“If we need a boat, that’s when I call for Clements or the SO,” said CCFPD Chief Richard Dickson. “If someone is fishing and they go in, we’ll use mechanical advantage and get the victim back to shore.”
Lake Tulloch, near Copperopolis, is within the district boundaries of CFPD. In an attempt to stay on the cutting edge of emergency response and service, CFPD is testing the waters, so to speak, and will be teaming up with the SO boat patrol on Lake Tulloch Memorial Day weekend to provide a paramedic onboard with advanced life-support equipment.
“We are very proud to be providing this additional service to our citizens and visitors to our community,” said Joel Schwartz, CFPD administrative officer.
The many diverse landscapes within the county also require many fire districts to have trained personnel proficient in high and low angle rope rescues. An example of when rope rescue would be used would be a vehicle over an embankment; rope rescue is often needed to extract the car’s occupants.
Low angle is designed for “powerful and short” lower-and-raise rescue methods, O’Donnell said at a rope rescue class held at EPFPD this week for fire districts ranging from Squaw Valley to San Francisco and Cosumnes to Monterey.
All trainings focus heavily on safety; safety for the firefighter and those in need of emergency aide.
Johnson emphasizes that training is but one piece of the puzzle when it comes to saving lives.
“We have a close relationship with the Sheriff’s Office and Search and Rescue,” he said. “In many situations, the Sheriff’s Office is the lead agency on rescue operations and we are in an assistant agency role. In all cases we are all here to help the public in a quick and coordinated effort.”