GLOCESTER, R.I. (WPRI) — The recent dry weather and lack of rain are the root cause of many wildfires, and fire departments are taking action to help prevent them from spreading.
The uptick in wildfires both locally and nationally prompted the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) to conduct a course for the first time in 30 years on fighting wildfires.
The baseline training course has different stations with different scenarios to help trainees be ready for any situation.
“We always need more boots on the ground so getting people through this training is very important for us and it’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time,” DEM’s Principal Forest Ranger Ben Arnold said.
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For many trainees, the recent wildfires in Rhode Island have hit close to home, causing them to take action.
“You always see it on the news, California, out west, you see it on the TV but you don’t experience it in real life so seeing that in person,” Rhode Island State Park Ranger CJ Paliotta said. “Driving home from Newport, driving on 295 and having that smoke carry over it’s like wow, this is real, it’s actually happening.”
The wildfires in Canada are also raising the alarm.
“It’s interesting to see the impact so far away can have on our community here so it just goes to show the actual dangers within a wildfire,” Paliotta said. “Everyone thinks the danger is strictly from fire or a building burning but the smoke drifting down shows the potential hazards that come along with it.”
At least 27 people are taking the class. Some of them are firefighters, but some work at the DEM and would like to educate themselves in case they are called upon to help.
“I think it’s extremely important to have at least a little bit of knowledge,” said Sydney Clays, who works for the DEM’s Office of Emergency Response. “There aren’t a ton of classes that you could probably find with hands-on, a lot of them are online. But just even taking an online course, understanding the reasons behind the strategies behind the suppression techniques can go a long way.”