Mar 26, 2013 8:00 PM by Nathan O'Neal

Tucson fire crews train for wildfire season in Oracle

ORACLE – More than 150 firefighters from local fire agencies spent the day in Oracle preparing for what could be a busy wildfire season.

It was a hands-on refresher course that could mean life or death at the fire line – training on both tactical and safety skills for the upcoming fire season.

“The main point of having the training is so that we all are on the same page when we go out on fire assignment,” said Jim Stout, from the Casa Grande Fire Department.

It’s especially important because of the nature of the job.

“You know it’s a hazardous job. There’s a lot out there that can hurt you so you just need to be aware of your surroundings,” said Damien Verbanic, a crewmember of the Ironwood Hotshots.

The crews refreshed their skills on everything from clearing fire lines and learning to survey the land, to settup up sprinkler systems that could ultimately save someone’s house.

“What I love about the job is that you could do it your whole life and there’s always something to learn,” Verbanic said.

With winter freezes and rain, crews are preparing for the worst.

“We have the potential to see a huge fire season this year, whether or not we see that – it all depends on what mother nature brings us,” Stout said.

There are other challenges local crews could face too, including an uncertain support system from the federal government.

“You know the feds side, there’s a lot of cutbacks,” Verbanic said, adding: “We’ll see once the season gets going what’s going to happen… but we’re just hoping for the best and hoping that it’s not too hectic.”


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