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Local fire departments prepare to battle wild fires during monsoon

Posted at 3:00 AM, Jun 06, 2023

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — At any given moment……

“Being responsible in what you’re doing, if you’re out….” Beth Long explained while getting interrupted.

…….firefighters can get called out to a fire.

“That’s us,” she said and we had to pause our interview.

Long is a firefighter for the Northwest Fire District.

With no hesitation, she got ready by putting on her gear.

The gear she wears to battle wild land fires is much different than the 80 pound gear she puts on to battle a building fire. It’s lighter weight and more breathable, Long saying, “Because you’re generally doing longer stints of physical activity outside.”

It also doesn’t require her to wear a mask.

On the ride over, Long is usually feeling a rush.

“We’re obviously there because something bad is going on, but we all go in with confidence in our abilities,” she said.

Long and her fellow firefighters train to battle wildfires every year. She said many of them start during monsoon because of careless people or weather.

“Lightning is a big one. It’s touching down far more frequently,” she said.

She said the wildfires combined with the monsoons burn off vegetation and loosen the soil. That means she has to consider mudslides.

However, one other thing that’s always on her mind: her fellow firefighters.

“So when we do get on those scenes there isn’t fear, and we can just jump into action and deal with whatever’s thrown our way,” Long said.

Golder Ranch Fire Department also battles wild land fires during monsoon.

Their captain, Colin Port, said one of the toughest parts about the job is working a schedule that can be demanding.

“We’re talking about 2 weeks at a time working 16 hour days. That begins to wear on you,” he said.

A tough schedule means making sure every firefighter is in shape. That’s why they take a physical ability test every year.

No matter what the season is, they’re always preparing for monsoon, even months before.

“We look at seasonal forecasts and we start that early. We start that back in January,” Port said.

Since fires can be similar to each other, preparing starts with looking at other fires because some can last 15 minutes, but others like the Big Horn Fire in 2020, can last a month.

“We’ve had fires where initial attack resources have worked up to 30 hours without getting a break,” he said.

That’s why they don’t just rely on each other to get the job done, but they also rely on the community to prevent fires.

“If there is a wildfire and you’re requested to evacuate, that that’s probably in the best interest for your safety,” Port said.