Blaze Teaches

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli

May 16, 2005

The Charlottesville area had the most fires in the state this year, weighing in with 180. Which makes putting out this fire so important.

"It's a physically demanding job. Wildfires can go on for days," said Paul Stoneburner, a former Albemarle Fire Department fire fighter.

The Department of Forestry set the blaze to train people from thirteen different states and Puerto Rico how to fight wildfires.

Even though this is a controlled burn, fire is very unpredictable. This means it could cross the line at anytime, keeping it a very realistic situation.

Many of the fire fighters in surrounding counties are volunteer or part-time, which makes this training a rare opportunity

"We have to rely on our part-time people. They are the backbone of our firefighting organization. We can't perform this type of training anywhere in the Charlottesville area," said Stoneburner.

In this course, students had to put out the blaze without water, chemicals, or hand crews. Instead, they used bulldozers. One of the two women in training, Fluvanna resident Tracey McDonnald, found she couldn't get enough practice.

"I felt so powerful," said McDonnald.

Fire fighters track the fire and outline the flames with the dozers to contain the blaze before letting it burn out over 100 acres. Students were up by 7 a.m. for class and then fought the fire past midnight.

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