Local volunteers learn firefighting skills at DNRC fire camp

By SHANNON RUCKMAN Montana firefighters sharpened their skills and tools at a fire training camp last weekend. “More than 110 volunteer, county, state and federal firefighters gave up their Father’s Day weekend to travel from all corners of Montana and attend our County Assistance Team camp,” said Crystal Beckman, CAT Public Information Officer for the Montana Dept. of Natural Resources and Conservation. The firefighters of varying levels of experience and backgrounds gathered on the Descheemaeker Ranch south of Lewistown in an active fire camp. Throughout the weekend, the firefighters worked through duty-specific stations learning all aspects of firefighting: fire behavior, leadership, use and maintenance of hand tools, engines and pumps, as well as radio communications, hand tooling strategies, completion of necessary paperwork and personal physiology and care when working on a fire. Kevin Raty, a member of the Winifred and Lewistown Volunteer Fire Departments, attended CAT camp for the first time. “I believe what I learned in the LCES (Look Out, Communication Escape Route and Safety Zone) station to be the most valuable,” said Raty. “When we deployed our emergency shelters, our team made a mistake, which we learned from. We had a good leader, though, so it was a good experience.” Learning to use the Pulaski tool to dig a fire line was also very useful, said Raty. “I learned a lot of information and skills I will be able to take to the field and use in the future,” he said. Gusty winds and an unfavorable weather forecast shortened the weekend training camp when coordinators decided against lighting a live fire exercise on Sunday. “Firefighter and landowner safety is our number one priority,” said Dave Hamilton, CAT Incident Commander. “We felt the weather conditions were too risky for a live fire exercise, and demobilized the camp on Sunday morning.” Shortly after closing the camp, the CAT was dispatched to assume command and management of the Wall near Birney, Mont. “We teach firefighters how to use the tools of the trade, follow the rules of safety, and maintain physical fitness,” said Hamilton. “I believe this year’s CAT camp was a success in doing just that.”

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