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Cal Fire Prepares for Wildfires With Annual Training in Foothills

Cal Fire Fresno and other fire crews are preparing for an early start to the wildfire season. In the annual spring training, crews practice fire drills near Millerton Lake to simulate how they would battle a wildfire in foothill communities.
Cal Fire and other crews rush up a hillside near homes to simulate how they would respond if a fire were raging in the foothills.
Cal Fire and other crews rush up a hillside near homes to simulate how they would respond if a fire were raging in the foothills.
Cal Fire is preparing for an early start to the wildfire season. 

Crews from Fresno-Kings Cal Fire, as well as firefighters from Clovis, Reedley and the city of Fresno participated in the annual spring training near Millerton Lake. 

Fire crews practiced rushing up a hillside near homes, simulating what they would do to battle a wildfire in the foothills. 

Firefighters say it's a not a matter of if, but when, a wildfire will spark, as drought conditions have forced an early start to the season.

"The reality is that we're ready for a wildland fire almost anywhere in Fresno County," says Cpt. Ryan Michaels, public information officer with Fresno Cal Fire. "Conditions are drying out. Though we got a little bit of rain, that didn't impact and change those fuels very much."

The annual spring training drills are meant to keep crews sharp on their skills.

Doug Knode lives near where fire crews trained. He says he remembers a wildfire a couple years ago in the foothills.

"You could see the smoke, and you can see the planes coming through and dropping water and chemicals on the fire," Knode says. 

As part of the drills, the fire crews coordinated and executed a game plan for potential fire scenarios.

"Most of the times we can't take our engines everywhere that the fire's moving. So we're having to put that hose on our backs and then physically extend that from a safe location and anchor and then move it up," Michaels says. 

That kind of training is something those living in the foothills appreciate.

"These guys, they get up here quick. I see them drive up here all the time. I mean, it's appreciated for sure," says Kyler Redwine. 
 
Fires across the state are already keeping crews busy. 

Currently, Fresno Cal Fire has seven of their engines assisting in Southern California, according to Michaels. 

Drought conditions have also forced Cal Fire to hire additional personnel and add engines about two months ahead of schedule to be prepared to battle potential wildfires. 
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