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SWIFT fire training readies new wildland crews

Fifty wildland fire recruits headed up to Granite Creek to put the lessons they have learned from the classroom into real-life practice.

IDAHO CITY, Idaho — Three miles east of Idaho City at Granite Creek, 50 wildland firefighter recruits are finishing their basic training with a practice burn.

Before each fire season the Bureau of Land Management, the National Forest Service, and the Department of Lands team up to train new wildland crews.

It’s a weeklong program called SWIFT – short for Southwest Idaho Fire Training.

Thursday marked the recruits' first experience in the field, putting into practice what they learned from instructors. The group practiced digging line, using situational awareness, and communicating as a team to fight wildfires. 

“We want to involve real life in the training as much as possible," said Ryan Shannahan, assistant fire management officer for the Boise National Forest Service. "The classroom is great, but actually going out and doing the motions and performing the skills they’ve learned is even better.”

A big part of wildland firefighting is doing what they call “digging line.” 

Pine needles and dead vegetation will continue to burn if not cleared out. Fire lines get down to the bare mineral soil, stopping the spread of flames in that direction.

Evan Phillips, one of the 50 SWIFT recruits, said learning to work as a team is paramount. 

“You can’t have one person doing all the work and the second person not," he said. "It’s a family-oriented career. From what I’ve learned you’re with each other for four to six months out of the year, so you have got to learn to like each other and work together.”

Phillips said the hands-on training opened his eyes to how hard fighting a wildfire is.

“I’ll say these guys don’t get enough respect. This is a brutal career, but it’s enjoyable and incredible," he said. “You’re out in the woods, you’re hiking, you’re sweating, you’re getting paid to work out. It’s awesome.”

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