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A Dedicated Photojournalist
photos and story by Pat  Ratliff, Tri County Courier July 14, 2004 issue

Tuesday, July 6th was the start of Basic 32 firefighter training in Alturas, CA. To facilitate my reporting of wildlands fires I would be attending the classes along with approximately 16 other people.

People taking the classes are immediately aware of the fact that, while there are a number of instructors and a somewhat casual atmosphere, this class is serious business and the lessons learned may well save your life.

After a short introduction by head instructor Randy Scherr, Dave Bostic gave a moving review of the South Canyon Fire. Ten years ago to the day, his friend and schoolmate, along with thirteen others perished in the Colorado fire. The impact of this review drove home the seriousness of the job and the need to learn the lessons well.

Representing the US Forest Service, US Park Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs, the members of the class were given three and a half days of intense basic firefighting training. Lectures, videos, and power point presentations were mixed with "war stories", recollections and practical applications of how the lessons learned would be applied. Jim Hill and Pat Preston completed the full time instructors list, with many other forest service personnel coming in to give demos and information.

The fourth day, all instructors and students were transported to the woods to fight a simulated fire. Escape routes and safety zones were established, fire lines were constructed and hose lines were laid. After an assessment of the work completed, the class went back to Alturas for the final exam.

Anyone interested in fighting fires should contact their local ranger district to receive information on when and where classes will be held.

 

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