Cal Fire Seasonal Crews Train in South Bay as Fire Season Ramps Up

Seasonal firefighters with Cal Fire on Tuesday began their first day of outdoor training as the fire season gets underway.

Officials at Santa Teresa ark in the south San Jose hills said they are preparing for a rigorous year.

“My life, the lives of my crew members, depends on our ability to work together, to do things efficiently and safely,” said Joel Garner, a seasonal firefighter with Cal Fire.

Officials say the first group of 20 seasonal firefighters for Cal Fire's Santa Clara unit, who began drills Tuesday, will be needed soon.

The agency reports that it has responded – in California – to 116 fires in the past week and 600 this year.

“We had two fires down in Morgan Hill and up in the East Bay so we're starting to see activity beginning to pick up,” said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Nick Ciardella.

El Nino and the drought are catalysts for a volatile fire season, he noted.

“It has made our grass crop grow out” while many trees are “drought stricken,” Ciardella said.

Firefighters aren’t just training to battle wild land fires. They are also working on responding to structure fires that are usually handled by urban agencies.

“A lot of our stations are located in outlying areas where they may be the first and only engine at the scene of a structure fire or a medical aid,” said Cal Fire Capt. Sean Ketchum.

In all, more than 100 seasonal firefighters will staff South Bay stations by June.

"We tell them, ‘A small fire can hurt you just as much as a big fire,’" Ciardella said.

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