Firefighters train at Camp Gruber

By Mark Hughes Phoenix Staff Writer

BRAGGS —Lt. Col. John Altebaumer said that of the33,000 acres at Camp Gruber, 28,000 acresare in the firing range area and susceptible to wild land fires.

“We know that firing weapons on our ranges can start grass fires,” said Altebaumer, deputy commander at Camp Gruber. “The question is, how do we keep those fires from getting out of hand and getting off the installation?”

A weeklong class ofbasic wild land fire training course taught by the Oklahoma Forestry Serviceat Camp Gruber is ensuring that military and civilian personnel are professionally trained to fight and contain grass fires this summer.

“A full week of training teaches them the basics of fire behavior as it relates to weather conditions with topography, the fuels on the ground and understanding how the fire is going to behave in that situation,” said Gary Williams, area forester for Oklahoma Forestry Service.

On Wednesday, 20 National Guardsmen and Camp Gruber civilian employees learned the proper way to conduct a progressive hose lay, Williams said.

When firefighters reach the end of their initial water hose, which could be between 50 to 100 feet, up to 1,000 yards of additional lines can be added, he said. A firefighter can take only so much water with him to a wild land fire, so he has to learn how to effectively use the water, Williams said.

“You don’t want to run out of water in the middle of a wild land fire,” he said.

Sgt. 1st Class RobertWalker said Oklahoma has 6,500 Army National Guardsmen and only four are designated by the guard as firefighters.

“This type of (wild land firefighting) training is something you usually don’t get as a National Guardsman,” Walker said.“Training civilians to be wild land firefighters is necessary in case the fire gets out of control we can get their assistance.”