Firefighters from around the state are in Palmer to brush up on their skills before the wildfire season is in full swing.

In a warehouse at the Mat-Su Division of Forestry office, roads in the Valley were mapped out in yarn as part of a simulation drill. The classroom training gives beginning firefighters a chance to assess practice fires and make mistakes without any real-world consequences.

One team arrived to a simulated scene of a brush fire off of King Arthur Drive in Wasilla, represented in red yarn. They used toy trucks and a plastic helicopter to simulate the responding crews.

Firefighters had to figure out the best way to manage the incident, contain the blaze and protect homes in the area.

“Sometimes it’s not necessarily the fire that’s the main problem, or we don’t need to focus our efforts on the fire when there are values at risk,” said Mat-Su Area Operations Foreman Brian Carver. “The priorities are public and firefighter safety and then structures and values at risk. Sometimes we have to let the fire do its thing and get people out of the way of the fire.”

In the King Arthur Drive scenario, the firefighters focused too much on containment and not enough on structure protection. The crew orchestrating the simulation pushed the fake fire towards even more homes as the red yarn stretched across the floor and jumped the road.

“When they’re faced with a real situation, a real emergency, they have something to reflect on to and go back to the basic skills, and start building the foundation of an incident management team,” Carver said.

The training brings firefighters from the Division of Forestry offices all over Alaska, including Tok, McGrath, Delta Junction and Fairbanks.

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