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Firefighters train at Disney Ranch

Posted: May 20, 2008 2:59 a.m.
Updated: July 21, 2008 5:02 a.m.

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With hot temperatures and vast amounts of rugged terrain and dry brush, fires are a constant threat in the Santa Clarita Valley, especially in the summer months. Firefighters help combat that threat. Yet to ensure that they are able to keep the public safe while fighting a blaze, firefighters from the state, county and city fire departments constantly train together to streamline communications and operations.

On Monday, three firefighting agencies trained at Placerita Canyon's Disney Ranch. All three agencies came together to practice wildland hose-laying tactics and strategies.

"Most of them know overall operations, but today focuses on hose-laying," said Stephanie English, community services liaison for the county Fire Dept. "Some of the hose fittings and lingo are different from agency to agency, so this is an opportunity for everyone to get on the same page."

Naturally, firefighters are among the first to respond to a fire, though the size of the response depends largely on the amount of area that is being burned. Most small fires, such as grass or vehicle fires, can be handled by local fire departments.

However, larger fires require cooperation of several fire departments.

For example, fire departments from several states converged upon the valley last October to help fight the Buckweed, Magic and Ranch fires.

In order to improve fighting such large fires with multiple departments, Monday's training drill helped firefighters work together on strategies on how to fight fires as one unit. The agencies that participated in the training drill included Los Angeles County Fire, Los Angeles City Fire and California Department of Forestry.

"This brings unity and team morale," said Capt. Gary Dellamalva of county Fire Station No. 73. "Communication is a major concern and focus at these training drills."

To help streamline communications, battalion chiefs or captains from the different agencies that are on-scene at a fire will park their vehicles side-by-side, making it easier to strategize how to fight the blaze and communicate with each other. With both vehicles next to each other, it also helps chiefs or captains communicate with the public, as each unit is able to confirm information and relay impending dangers to the public.

"In a unified command situation, the responsible parties can focus on making right decisions and effectively strategize," said Luke Claus, assistant fire chief with the county Fire Dept. "Training exercises such as this one introduces different agencies to each other and allows us to work on how to work as a team."

During Monday's 90-minute training drill, firefighters from all three agencies simulated fighting a fire by scaling a hill, clearing shrubs along their path and laying down a hose from the truck - located at the base of the hill.

Combined with a two-hour classroom session earlier in the day, all firefighters who participated in the drill were able to work together as one team despite working with different agencies.

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