British firefighters learn American techniques

A contingent for firefighters from Great Britain get firsthand experience on the Canyon Creek Complex fire.

JOHN DAY – A firefighting contingent from Great Britain visited the Canyon Creek Complex last week to learn how the United States manages large complex incidents.

Five career firefighters from Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, working for England’s Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, were chaperoned by Sisters Fire District. They arrived to see operational tactics first hand and learn about the incident command system used to coordinate emergency response among multiple agencies.

Unlike the U.S., which works with several agencies to fight fires, England has one firefighting organization that manages all of the country’s structural and wildland fires.

After arriving in the U.S., the British visitors received an orientation and completed basic firefighting training, which gave them an introduction into U.S. firefighting methods. While visiting the Canyon Creek Complex, they attended a coordination meeting, where leaders from the various cooperating agencies discussed strategic goals.

While they intended only to observe firefighting methods, within the first hour of arriving on the fire line, the Hampshire firefighters were “assigned” a new spot fire, where they worked with local firefighters to line the new fire’s perimeter.

One of the Hampshire firefighters called it a “great honor to work with the Black Mesa Hotshot crew.”

Two of the Hampshire firefighters flew with air operations, touring the fire line, scouting for spot fires and calling in bucket drops. This was a new experience for them because they don’t use aircraft to support their firefighting efforts.

Primarily an urban firefighting force, the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service rarely has wildland fires with the size and scope of those that occur in the U.S. In England, they face much smaller and less frequent wildland fires. A 160-acre wildland fire would be large for them, and they would encounter it only about once a decade. Hardwood species, such as maples and oaks, make up much of their forests, and the climate tends to be moist throughout the year.

While the British firefighters may not deal with large fires, they said they saw the opportunity to apply the principles they learned on the Canyon Creek Complex to deal with large incidents, such as flooding.

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