More than 100 firefighters and other emergency personnel from across Arizona are undergoing training in how to battle wildfires.
The two-day training began at McDowell Mountain Regional Park, north of Fountain Hills, and included nearly 30 fire and police agencies.
The training is an effort by the Scottsdale Fire Department and the Central Arizona Wildland Response Team to get used to rugged terrain.
Heavy rains this winter means a lush growth of desert grasses that eventually will dry this spring, providing potential fuel for fires.
The McDowell Sonoran Preserve was last closed in 2005 for nearly two months. That summer, the Cave Creek Complex Fire scorched 248,000 acres from Bartlett Lake to New River — the largest desert wildfire in Arizona history.
This is the first year all participants will come together in one location for the annual training, said Capt. Kurt Walker of the Peoria Fire Department.
Firefighters trained at four stations, mastering how to work with helicopters to properly pick up water buckets and preparing for worst-case scenarios. Another training station included a discussion about effective firefighting safety methods.
Walker said the idea for the Central Arizona Wildland Response Team came after the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski Fire, which burned across 469,000 acres of east-central Arizona, destroying nearly 500 homes and forcing the evacuation of about 30,000 people.
That fire cost more than $43 million to battle.
Source: The Arizona Republic, www.azcentral.com.
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