Several local, state and federal agencies will be performing a live fire exercise within the Cedar Canyon Wildlife Management Area (WMA) on Saturday and Sunday, September 14th and 15th.
Deputy State Frie Marshal Alyssa Sanders told KNEB News that during the day smoke and flames may be visible and emergency vehicles will be prevalent in the area during the course of the weekend.
Sanders said the exercise will be ran as a Type 3 event, incorporating an Incident Management Team consisting of roughly 38 individuals. Approximately 200 firefighters from 30 different cities and 4 states will participate in the two-day event, gaining valuable knowledge and training.
Each day we will begin with a briefing at Five Rocks Amphitheater at 7 a.m., and will then transfer into the field.
Each operational period will last to approximately 7 p.m. each evening.
Sanders anticipates several activities to take place, including fire ignitions, suppression, aerial operations and water handling. She says they will have 30 fire engines, 10 water tenders, 1 hand crew, 3 helicopters and 2 SEAT planes to assist us during ignitions and suppressions.
This exercise prepares firefighters to manage a large wildfire within the Wildcat Hills and surrounding areas. Sanders says firefighters will gain knowledge in structure protection, fire suppression, aerial firefighting support, and ignitions. The exercise will increase in complexity as the weekend progresses to create a real life scenario of a growing wildfire.
Establishing fire within the Cedar Canyon area reduces overgrown and noxious fuels. Firefighters will be able to create “fire breaks” within the WMA to improve overall safety of the area. The WMA will see grass and forest improvements for watersheds and wildlife through the winter and spring season.
Prior to this weekend, Sanders said the Gering Fire Department has prepped the area to contain the exercise to the Cedar Canyon WMA. Several fire breaks have been established in grassy and forested areas allowing firefighters to conduct fuel reduction exercises. Every effort has been made to ensure a safe and well-managed exercise.
Sanders noted the exercise would not be possible without participation from these agencies: Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Gering Fire Department, Banner County Fire Department, Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, Nebraska Forest Service, Nebraska National Guard, Nebraska State Fire Marshal Training Division, Scotts Bluff County Mutual Aid District, US Forest Service, and State of South Dakota Division of Wildland Fire.
Most importantly, Sanders said the exercise would not be possible without the dedication of local and regional firefighters participating in the training.