Guard School May 27-June 1


We started out the week, doing project work, around the Boy Scout Camp, and learning about the tools, specifically the Mcleod (a rake and modified shovel). a {i;aslo (an axe, with a maddox head on the back of it), and a Rhino ( a shovel, that has an axe handle, and bent at 90 degrees). After that the crew sharpened and cleaned the tools, for the days work. For work we started out by making slash piles out of the debris left by a recent timber operation in the campsites. This was followed by cleaning a trail, of debris, in which corps members, Sam Bowen and Eric Spangle, got to use the McLeod, to scrap loose dirt, and pine needle dufffrom the ground along with small sticks, while the rest of the team along with Arapahoe Team 2 continued slash piling, corps member Andrew Novak got to use the Pulaski, to cut out small jack pines, that were already dead away from the healthy stands, and improving the aesthetic value of the trail and campsite. Paul Dobmeyer meanwhile having to hand off his PPE (proper protective equipment) to someone who was sawyer certifiedcoordinated with the Bighorn team to make sure the crew got feed. While this was going on team leader Tim Gurnett and corps member Ben Henry were using this time to provide direction on how to use the tools in use, and were bucking up downed trees who had blocked another trail, and were a safety hazard to hikers and boaters in the lake below. These two got to be sawyers due to the fact that both were still certified to run saws either through S-212 or Game of Logging. After the work day all five Veteran Fire Corps got together whiule waiting for the Forest Service3 to arrive and had a cook out to celebrate Memorial Day. On Tuesday all five VFC’s reported into guard school which is basically a Wild-land Firefighter academy, conducted as closesly as possible to what a real incident would be. We camped out in tents, and were issued line packs, if we didn’t already have them, as well as nomex and tools. The crews were also separated and mixed with other agencies workers, as well as with other corps members from different teams we may not have had the experience to work with. Every small group was assigned a squad boss who was a seasoned firefighter, and who were directly responsible for, we camped with our new squads, walked in line everywhere we went carrying all of our line gear ( the gear you carry on a fire, a pack, hard hat, tools, fusee’s, space blanket, water, a meal ready to eat, our yellow nomex tops, a flat file, and gloves, plus whatever you wanted to bring.) This was too get us used to handling our equipment, and how we walk into a forest to battle the blaze. After that first day we went through FEMA classes, which was simply a refresher to Arapaho Team 1since the week before we took both I-100, and I-700 online through FEMA’s indepedent study program. The next day though we were off to the races S-190 and topography courses, learning about how things like humidity or the aspecty of a slope effects fire behavior, and where we should start to consider how to fight fire, we were also introduced to the 18 watch out situations, and 10 fir fighting orders, which were common denominators, on all tragedy fires (fires wherefirefighter lives were lost, like Mann Gulch, or Nine Mile). The members who were new to the fire world, also learned the acronym LCES which stands for Lookouts, Communication, Escape Routes, and Safety Zones, an important and easy thing f or us to remember to help mitigate the risk of ones own life on the fire line. The next day was over S-130 which covers specific tactics and tools to fight wildfires, with things like back burns, direct attack ( digging hot line trying to deprive the fire of fuel) and most importantly the difference in a safety zone, where it is “flip flops and camera time”-Engine Captain out of North Zone, and deployment sites where we have to deploy our emergency shelters, to preserve an air pocket, and to protect us from radiant heat, as the fire burns over us. On the last full day of school we were scheduled to have a prescribed burn, but the weather like all week refused to cooperate and it got scratched. So instead on May 31, the team broke up into there assigned squads for the culminating practical test for guard school and participated in eventes like fire tool sharpening, and safe handling, introduction to the Mark 3 pump, ignition devices, and the different set types in the wild-land community. The team then had to demonstrate ways of suppressing fire, via a progressive hose lay, with hose packs on mock fires, then digging line along the perimeter of a mock fire that was demonstrated by flagged tres, here we had to cross barb wire fences, and quickly we learnt that to dig line the best way is in good spirits and to have a rhythm about the work with doing things like take a step, take a lick with your tool, pulling the unburned fuel to the greenside, and going to bare mineral soil. Despite the gruieling work the group stayed in high spirits by singing songs, and cracking jokes, expecially refencing the movie we watched the night prior about the fires of 1910 and how they were fought, and how important they were to ideas on conservation in the early days of that century. We did this with sayings like ” Gee, golly gosh soldier, thanks for saving my town.” Or “The fat man ran and pushed me and my two kids off the train.” Alas though we tied back into the beginning of where we started digging line. Now it was time to demonstrate that 95% of our job is mop-up. While we were cold trailing ( one hand ungloved and using the back of it to feel heat so if you do get burned, you can still dig with your tool. We do this to feel for heat, and also we will switch to clear eye protection if we weren’t originally wearing clear eye protection to look for smoke and heat waves, we also will smell to see if we can tell if anything is burning.” Upon finding nothing, we then got into a grid and went through the mock fire twice, before calling it controlled, meaning that the fire was out. Upon completion now we had to rehab our fire line, by filling in the hand line with the dirt we had removed. This was done to help prevent erosion.  To the end of day we conducted an After Action Review and had an MRE for dinner, simply because that’s what you eat on the fire line. On Saturday we graduated guard school, said our farewell to the other corpsmembers, loaded up our gear and departed Medicine Mountain Boy Scout Ranch, we stopped by in in Custer, South Dakota, to get hamburgers to celebrate, and then started our drive to Granby, which will be our home for the rest of the summer.