With the hottest months of the year upon us and wildfires an all-too-familiar threat, fire crews are training hard to keep Central Texas safe.
Members of the Austin Fire Department’s cadet class spent their Friday training at the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge to ensure they have the skills to protect the region from wildfires.
The group of 45 cadets was put through different stages of training, including running hoses and digging trenches.
"This is as real as it gets,” Eric Krueger, an instructor with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said. “This is exactly what we do out west. In Colorado, Wyoming, West Texas, up in the panhandle, same strategy and tactics right here."
This year, the AFD cadets will undergo 40 hours of the wildland training, between three to five times as much in recent years.
Austin fire officials said they hope the make the more intense training the industry standard for years to come.
"It is wonderful to be able to bring the cadets out here and actually have them work in the wildland,” Lt. Randy Denzer said. “It is getting harder and harder in the Austin area to find areas like this where we can come out and do this type of training."
After the intensive training, the cadets will earn a national certification, something officials hope this will allow them to work seamlessly with departments from across the state and country.
"It allows the federal agencies, the state agencies and the local agencies to communicate, be in the same operating picture, also be able to have the same terminology,” Lt. Denzer said. “We all know what each other are supposed to do because we have all had the same training."
The Austin Fire Department is working to make sure every firefighter in the department receives the same national certification.
The cadets are expected to graduate early next month.