By Wendy Holdren
Firefighter trainees met Saturday, July 6 at the Summit Bechtel Reserve for hands-on training to fight wildfires.
West Virginia Division of Forestry Fire Investigator D. Kelley said officials were preparing the trainees for firefighting in West Virginia and to potentially be deployed for major fire situations outside the state.
“This is part of the basic firefighting course. This is a great way for the younger trainees to get some experience and possibly move up the ranks.”
Although the training was not specifically designed for the Boy Scouts Jamboree, Kelley said the influx of people couldn’t have came at a better time of year in terms of firefighting.
“It really worked to our benefit because this time of year we have lush vegetation and there is less of a fire danger.”
He said because of the recent rain, the chance of a major fire is very low.
Mike Patrick, director of operations for the Summit, was on site Saturday, along with Shane Wheeler, Mount Hope fire chief and health and safety manager for the Boy Scouts.
“We are absolutely ready,” Wheeler said. “We are really prepared.”
He said they have covered their bases, including public safety and homeland security. More than 40 ambulances can be used in case of an emergency.
“The governor and all the people involved have gone all out to ensure this is a safe event.”
The trainees, once they traveled to the training area at the Summit, geared up and got ready for action.
They broke off into crews and simulated a real-life fire situation, while New River Gorge Fire
Manager Peggy Ainslie gave directions.
She also agreed that summer is the prime time for an influx of visitors to come to the area, as spring and fall are considered the fire seasons because of the drier conditions.
Michael Kelley, of Beckley, was one of the trainees. He is currently a student at West Virginia University and he said he was attempting to get his red card in firefighting.
“This is definitely more fun than the online course,” Kelley said, laughing.
For more information about taking a look at the Summit yourself, visit www.visitjambo.org.
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