Battalion Chief Jesse Park of Cal Fire addressing the firefighters after lunch. Photos by Melissa Diaz Hernandez

In an effort to further improve communication and cooperation during incidents, the United States Forest Service (USFS), Cal Fire (state and county) and Idyllwild Fire Protection District (IFPD) joined forces for a training on July 31 organized by Chief Chris Fogle of USFS, Battalion Chief Jesse Park of Cal Fire and IFPD’s Chief Mark LaMont. 

Park explained the difference between Cal Fire state and county, “Sometimes it is a bit convoluted. We all wear the Cal Fire patch but have different equipment. Some of this equipment is Riverside County fire equipment. Riverside County has 20 cities contracting with them for fire protection. So, the cities contract with the county and the county contracts with the state. It gets a little bit confusing, but the whole point is, we are one big team out here. 

“Our goal is to protect this mountain area and to let the citizens of all this area know that we are a unified team — a fighting force — that is there for their safety. All the way around, it doesn’t matter what patch we are wearing, we all work together,” Park articulated with Fogle and LaMont sharing their support. 

Just hanging out in the Fire Lane ... 

The training included how cooperative agreements work between the agencies. In addition, each agency’s firefighters spent several hours showing the other agencies’ firefighters its engines so everyone has an understanding of the equipment and capabilities. Each agency had multiple engines present and the engines all function a little bit differently. This training also gave the firefighters an opportunity to ask questions of other agencies in a relaxed, low-stress environment. 

Fogle reinforced that if firefighters have something “they need to ask of the forest service that you do not know, we have four chief officers here before us, you have some captains … we tried to make sure we had the right people here so if there are any questions, we can get those addressed.” 

Firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service, Cal Fire and Idyllwild Fire Protection District learn how this particular Cal Fire engine operates. 

The purpose of this exercise was to train the firefighters so if, for example, a USFS firefighter is able to assist Cal Fire or IFPD firefighters to get equipment or water from an engine or drive to another location during an incident, they can do so with knowledge and having trained on the engine prior to that incident. This increases the collaborative effort between agencies. 

“It is important for us to understand each agency’s different capabilities and equipment, to train together on our policies and procedures so that when we go to a response we communicate with each other and we have our teamwork,” Park said in a short video produced by Cal Fire of the interagency training posted on Twitter.  

Engines begin lining up prior to the interagency training on July 31 at the Hurkey Creek Campground. 

This is the first of a series of trainings. The next training, according to the chiefs, will include the firefighters engaging together in training exercises now that they have an idea as to how each of the engines function. 

When it came to lunch time, all the firefighters pulled the lunch tables together, into the shade of course, and bantered back and forth over an array of topics, mostly fire-related. 

After lunch, all three chiefs gave a run-down as to how the cooperative agreements work between the agencies. When it was time to call it a day, firefighters loaded into the engines having left quite the impression with not just each other, but also with campground visitors.