Photo courtesy Port Ludlow Fire & Rescue

Multi-agency exercise set for June 1 & 2

PORT LUDLOW—Wildland fire fighting is dangerous work. It requires a set of skills and competencies that are obtained through passing educational courses and demonstrating proficiencies during training associated with various positions.

A two-day exercise is planned for June 1 and 2 in Port Ludlow at the Trail 9 golf course, a now-closed nine-hole course. This will be the third year the exercise has been conducted in Port Ludlow. Agencies participating include Port Ludlow Fire & Rescue, East Jefferson Fire Rescue, Quilcene Fire Rescue, Brinnon Fire, Discovery Bay Fire, Jefferson County Department of Emergency Management (DEM), Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Navy Region Northwest Fire and Emergency Services, Department of Natural Resources, US Forest Service, North Kitsap Fire Rescue, Clallam County Fire #2, #3 & #4. Participants will be camping overnight at the training site in order to better prepare them for response to extended fire operations.

As in past years, the training will involve basic hose and water system deployment; personal protective equipment and shelter deployment; nine-line safety deployment; fire line creation/management; crew management and deployment, basic fire tactics; fire scene preservation and basic cause determination for the first day of the exercise.

The second day of the exercise will involve the Department of Natural Resources Helitack or “helicopter-delivered fire resources,” the system of managing and using helicopters and their crews to perform aerial firefighting and other firefighting duties, primarily the initial attack on wildfires. The exercise participants will learn the operation and safety of the Helitack; live fire management and mop-up; training area management and preservation followed by after-action briefings, taskbook evaluations and demobilization procedures.

The goal for fire fighters is to earn their “Red Card” which has been called the “driver’s license of wildland firefighting” because like to a driver’s license, the Red Card is proof that a fire fighter has completed all the coursework and training required to be on the fire line and work in specific roles. The Red Card also documents any additional positions a fire fighter may be in the process of earning.

Two things are required each year to maintain the Red Card. The first is NWCG’s Wildland Fire Safety Training Annual Refresher. This course re-emphasizes the importance of safety on the fire-line. It includes a practice fire shelter deployment and a pack test.

The management system for certification is called the Incident Qualification and Certification System (IQCS) and is used by all federal agencies and most states, including Washington.

All Jefferson County fire districts use courses from the National Wildland Coordinating Group (NWCG) as part of the certification process to obtain a Red Card. NWCG standards establish common practices and requirements that enable efficient and coordinated national interagency wildland fire operations. These standards may include guidelines, procedures, processes, best practices, specifications, techniques, and methods. NWCG standards are interagency by design; however, the decision to adopt and utilize them is made independently by the individual member agencies and communicated through their respective directives systems. (https://www.nwcg.gov/ )

Because wildland fire fighting is strenuous, to obtain a Red Card the fire fighter must demonstrate physical stamina.  This demonstration is done with a pack test that involves a three-mile hike with a 45-pound pack that must be completed in less than 45 minutes.  There are three levels depending on the job a fire fighter is testing for. Primary fire fighters are required to pass the most rigorous, arduous level of the pack test.

“It has never been more important to get fire fighters trained to fight wildland fires in our area. Personnel need to know how to work collaboratively between agencies, train to the same tactics and strategies and adapt to a wide variety of fuel models, topography and conditions as seamlessly as possible” said Port Ludlow Fire Chief Brad Martin. According to the National Interagency Fire Center (nifc.gov), the potential for more wildland fires state-wide this year is high.

Due to the nature of the training, vehicle movement, helicopter operations and a planned live fire evolution, we are asking the general public not to plan to observe the training. This will be a dynamic training event and the need to ensure the safety of bystanders, balanced with training evolutions would impede the training event significantly.

Fire fighters receive final instructions before beginning a day of training at last year’s Wildland Fire

Fighting Training in Port Ludlow. This year’s exercise will be a two-day event.