CAL FIRE trains seasonal firefighting force in North Bay to gear up for 2024 wildfire season

ByCornell Barnard KGO logo
Saturday, April 20, 2024
CAL FIRE trains seasonal firefighting force in North Bay
Thirty seasonal firefighters took part in a training academy in Napa hosted by CAL FIRE's Sonoma, Lake and Napa Unit on Thursday.

NAPA, Calif. (KGO) -- In the North Bay, CAL FIRE is already gearing up for the 2024 fire season.

Firefighter training is happening at CAL FIRE.

"We just did a progressive hose lay. We mocked a fire on the right side," said firefighter Brenden O'Connor

O'Connor is here for all the good, bad and exhausting moments.

MORE: State's wildfire insurance crisis is so bad, even CAL FIRE stations are struggling to get coverage

"This is not easy work, but it's very rewarding work," O'Connor said.

He's one of 30 seasonal firefighters taking part in a training academy in Napa hosted by CAL FIRE's Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit. A total of 250 new and returning firefighters are getting hired for the summer.

"It was good, still early in the year. Got lots to improve on, doing good so far," said Firefighter Brett Nielsen.

"We go over basic skills, EMS, wildland training, structural firefighting, hazmat response," said CAL FIRE Battalion Chief David Levin.

MORE: Strategic management helps protect redwoods from future wildfires in Santa Cruz Mountains

One drill was simulating a fuel spill from a tanker truck.

CAL FIRE says it has enough firefighters to staff stations and engines this summer but more are needed.

"But I will say our pool of candidates compared to several years ago has gotten a little bit smaller," Levin said.

Grasses around the Bay Area could be dry and brown in a month's time.

MORE: Endless cycle of wildfires threatening gains on air pollution in CA, Stanford experts say

And firefighters have thoughts what that could mean for fire season.

"I think we'll see a delay in fire activity due to all the rain. I can't speak to what we may see later in the year," Levin said.

"We had a lot of rain like you said. It could be we get more fires, because everything is growing. You never know until summer hits," said firefighter Allison Bailey.

Not everyone is willing to make a guess.

"If I could predict fire season, I should go buy a lottery ticket," O'Connor said.

Good or bad, these firefighters say they'll be ready this season.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live