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Monday, Jun 02 2014 01:05 PM

Night vision goggle training to bring several fire departments together

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Kern County firefighter Michael Lombardi with the Keene Helitack crew runs past Kern County fire helicopters #407 and #408 that will be part of the Southern California Interagency NVG Fire Suppression Drill in the Tehachapi area on Thursday, June 5.

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BY CASEY CHRISTIE Californian staff photographer cchristie@bakersfield.com

It's wildfire season again.

And the Kern County Fire Department is doing something about it.

The department has planned for several months, organizing a fire suppression drill that should benefit the county -- and places beyond.

On Thursday, Kern County Fire will host the Southern California Interagency Night Vision Goggle Fire Suppression Drill in Tehachapi.

"It will be a big benefit to demonstrate to all involved that these agencies can perform this operation (at night) safely and efficiently together," said Fire Pilot Scott Beck, who is stationed at the Keene Heliport and has been instrumental in organizing the training.

Agencies that plan to participate include the Kern County Fire Department, Orange County Fire Authority, Los Angeles City Fire Department, Los Angeles County Fire Department, Ventura County Fire/Sheriff, U.S. Forest Service, Cal Fire and the California Army National Guard.

Often with less wind and cooler temperatures at night, fire suppression is easier because blazes tend to die down at night.

Aircraft will arrive at the Tehachapi Municipal Airport, which will be used as the drill helibase. That will be followed by a drill in-briefing and familiarization flights during daylight. Night flying and drills will follow after the suns gone down.

Close to 300 people will be involved in this large-scale operation, allowing agencies to work together fighting fires at night. Many agencies are not accustomed to that.

Fire suppression apparatus, hand crews, engines and bulldozers will be stationed at the burn site on Cummings Ranch, where an actual fire will be started that evening.

"The drill will create a somewhat controlled environment to make sure all the bugs are knocked out before we have to perform operations for the real thing," Beck said.

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