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Hoosier firefighting crews train to help fight wildfires

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Local and state agencies say they are prepared should they have have to help battle wildfires.

Sunday, 19 firefighters were killed while fighting a large wildfire near Phoenix, Ariz. The State Wild and Fire Supervisor for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources said our crews here practiced some of the same methods used over there.

“Our training across the country for (wildfires) is standard. (We have) the same training programs (and) methodologies that those individuals are trained (with). We are trained (similarly) here,” Drew Daily said.

Daily said Indiana does not use ‘hotshot’ crews, like they do in Arizona. A ‘hotshot’ crew is made of about 20 elite firefighters. They are tasked with digging a fire line and creating a fuel break.

“We use engines and crews and different styles of hand crews, as well as equipment, to fight a fire,” Daily said.

Daily said crews in Indiana use specialty tools like shovels, rakes and leaf blowers, more than they would in Arizona. He said those tools are used to create a fire line. He said what happened in Arizona is tragic.

“Our fuels and topography do not lend to that type of explosive fire behavior, (but) that said, with what we do here, there is inherit risk,” Daily said.

Daily spoke about fire shelters as well.

“If they deploy fire shelters that means that all escape was cut off and they can’t make it to a safety zone so it is a last resort,” Daily said.

Even though our state does not deploy hot shot crews, DNR sends resources to other states to help with wildfires. For example, a fire behavioral analyst from Indiana was sent to Arizona Sunday night. That expert will help with part of the investigation.

“Our training is the same across the board. We’re trained in situation awareness, risk analysis, and other operational tactics – the same thing as the folks in Arizona are trained in.”

Daily said their relationship with the local fire departments is crucial as well in a situation like the one in Arizona. They help each other fight fires.

“Sometimes we monitor the DNR on our radio frequency and they monitor us and they’ll call and assist, if we need help,” Fire Chief Faron Livingston said.

Livingston is the fire chief for the Bloomington Township Fire Department.

“We help DNR with Monroe State Forest and in turn they come help us with a major brush fire, grass fire, (and) wildfire,” Chief Livingston said.