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Hundreds of local firefighters practice fire control in Riverside County

Firefighters practice live fire training in Riverside County
Firefighters practice live fire training in Riverside County 02:17

Hundreds of Southern California firefighters gathered near Lake Skinner Thursday afternoon to participate in wildfire training. 

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Part of a much larger operation statewide, the crews made up of more than 400 firefighters with 14 different Califire agencies, were on hand to practice wildfire control. 

They practiced on a 55-acre plot of state land, where they practiced fighting fire with fire - using drip torches, hot-shot flares, handgun-style stubbies and something called a "terra-torch," a flamethrower of sorts that allows the user to create flames in a very specific location, often used on dry weeds and vegetation that act as fuel for wildfires.

"As a strategic goal of Cal fire and for the governor, we try and treat 500,000 acres throughout the state," said Calfire Riverside Battalion Chief Josh Janssen, who detailed how the live fire training was crucial to not only help prevent devastating wildfires, but to prepare crews in advance of the hot, dry summer ahead. 

On top of the learning firsthand experience that firefighters get in battling these blazes, the practice has a positive ecological effect on the landscape. 

For instance, crews burnt the dead vegetation surrounding a chaparral tree to protect it in the event of a fire in the area. 

"We can burn off enough of that seed collectively to burn off the non-native grasses," Janssen explained. "It allows those natural habitats and species to come back into the area and populate the area."

They also debuted their newest tool, a brand new Black Hawk helicopter, which will be used specifically in water-dropping aerial attacks on wildfires. 

Janssen indicated that crews plan to be extra vigilant this season, especially in the wake of the massive wildfire dubbed the Coastal Fire, that destroyed 20 homes and damaged 11 more in the Laguna Niguel area.

"To be burning million-dollar homes on the coastline, with 55% humidity in May is historical," he said. 

He hopes that instances like that, as well as the ongoing practice of crews throughout California, serve as a reminder to residents to take the necessary time to create defensible spaces around their homes. 

"We are beyond ready to have fires that will absolutely overtake the landscape and their homes, if we don't have those defensible spaces put into place," he concluded. 

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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