Sixty volunteer firefighters attended the Delaware Forest Service’s 18th Annual Fire Camp on Saturday April 20 at Blackbird State Forest – an intensive one-day training session that tested their physical stamina and mental preparation and culminated with a hands-on “live-burn” fire simulation. As the capstone of the Forest Service’s wildfire training, successful completion of the program leads to coveted “red-card” certification from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG), which makes attendees eligible for out-of-state fire assignments. Last year, Delaware dispatched personnel to fight wildfires in Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho.
The day began shortly after 7 a.m. with an arduous “pack test,” which requires crew members to complete a three-mile course in under 45 minutes while carrying a 45-pound pack. From there, participants rotated through how-to sessions on wearing fire protective gear, deploying an emergency fire shelter, communicating on the fire line, operating a chainsaw, and completing required documents.
The afternoon’s activities focused on conducting a carefully controlled simulated burn exercise at a nearby forest tract, putting the group’s classroom skills to practical use on a real fire.