Firefighters complete aerial supervision training


Eighteen firefighters from CAL FIRE and the US Forest Service are flying high in the Northstate this week as part of an interagency course in tactical supervision.

The group started last week with class work in Sacramento and moved to field training over at the Redding Air Attack Base on Monday.

Assistant Chief Thomas Ewald from the Los Angeles County Fire District was among them.

"The challenges that we are presented here are real world challenges and ultimately it will make us better come game day," said Ewald.

Ewald has worked as a firefighter for 24 years, but this was his first class on aerial supervision for multiple aircraft.

"It's about interagency collaboration to ensure that when large fires are impacting California and the west, that all the agencies that are responding are singing off the same sheet of music," said Ewald.

Throughout the day groups worked on air traffic control, firefighting tactics, observation and communication between several aircraft, like helicopters and air tankers.

"You have up to six frequencies you have to monitor and you have a variety of aircraft a variety of ground resources, dispatch. So trying to coordinate that, trying to be attentive to all the needs of individuals, but at the same time being able to come up with a concise clear message is probably the thing that takes the most practice," said Ewald.

The days are long and the work can be tough at times, but Ewald said the training is beneficial giving first-hand experience that can only be compared to a real wildfire.

"When there is a major fire and we're responding in a unified way between agencies on the same sheet of music, we'll have practiced these skills and I believe it will really enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the operation and ultimately improve safety for everyone," said Ewald.

No fire was used in Thursday's training. Instead, fire lines were simulated with orange markers and used smoke signals to demonstrate fire growth and spotting.