SANTA CLARA – A plume of smoke rising from a fire in the area of Rachel Drive in Santa Clara was causing some worry Saturday morning. When concerned residents called the St. George Communications Center to report a possible fire, their worries were soon alleviated, however. As it turned out the Santa Clara Fire Department was conducting a firefighting training exercise in the parking lot of their fire station.
Santa Clara Fire Chief Dan Nelson said the training started at around 6:30 a.m. and was mopping up around 9:30 a.m. The exercise itself focused on flash fire training and was instructed by St. George Fire Battalion Chief Ken Guard.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, a flash fire is defined as “a rapidly moving flame front which can be a combustion explosion. Flash fires may occur in an environment where fuel and air become mixed in adequate concentrations to combust.”
Flash fires are particularly dangerous for firefighters, because they are the fires that tend to explode in their faces when opening a door to a room or similarly enclosed space. Because of this the firefighters need to learn to recognize the signs and conditions that can lead to a flash fire and how best to avoid them. To this end members of the Santa Clara Fire Department were practicing in a trailer designed for flash fire training Saturday monring
Though the training on Saturday was connected with combating an element seen in structure fires, the Santa Fire Department also responds to brush fires. Nelson said area had been lucky so far, as only a handful of small and quickly contained brush fires have occurred in Washington County.
Nelson added that the best thing homeowners who live in wilderness areas could do was maintain a good defensible space – a fire break basically – around their homes. Previously the fire chief pointed out an example of defensible space at a runaway controlled fire the fire department responded to earlier this year.
In that incident, high winds caused a controlled fire to burn out of hand. Part of the fire crept up a hill with a home right in its path, however, because there were no fuels for the fire to consume between the top of the hill and the home – debris, bushes and trees for example – the fire spread to the left and the right instead of moving forward. The fire itself was quickly contained and extinguished by the Santa Clara Fire Department.
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