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CA inmates, firefighters training for upcoming wildfire season

Fire crews train for wildfires

HEMET, Calif. - Four tests. One day.  

More than four dozen Riverside County firefighters, including inmate crew members, braved the hills of Bautista Canyon hiking, testing tools and cutting their way as part of training for upcoming wildfires.

"They prepare for it," CAL FIRE/Riverside County Division Chief Silvio Lanzas said. "They've been training for the last few months, and it's a requirement to be on our fire crews, and to be fire ready."

The exercise included a two-mile hike and crews clearing hundreds of feet of brush, all to be completed within a certain time-limit. Lanzas said firefighters and inmate crew members will then be cleared to be on the front lines of any wildfire that may come up. 

He also said this year's training is important, with many fire officials predicting an active wildfire season due in part to growing vegetation this past year. 

"We're coming off a wet year, and now we have a lot of grass that's going to be dead here in the next couple of weeks," Lanzas said. "That's just more fuel and more ability to spark a fire."

But he and others said they hope Thursday's training will allow crew members to cut their teeth, and prepare for any challenge ahead. 

"We want to make sure that all of our crews are ready," Lanzas said. 

For more information, and tips from firefighters on preparing for the upcoming wildfire season, you can click on links in our earlier version of this story below. 

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UPDATE: 2:31 p.m. 

As part of continued training and preparing for the upcoming wildfire season, CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire crews are holding their annual Fire Preparedness Exercise Thursday. 

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California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) inmate crews from the CAL FIRE Riverside Unit will take part in the exercise, evaluating their ability to safely put out wildfires. 

Crews are observed and rated in drills, including their ability to hike, construct hand line utilizing hand tools, deployment of Fire Shelters in an attempt to prepare for a life-threatening burn over situation. 

The exercise took place southeast of the Bautista Conservation Camp. 

Last summer, fires scorched southern California. More than a hundred homes were lost by the time the Blue Cut Fire was contained.

The Pilot Fire in August burned more than eight thousand acres. 

KESQ News Channel 3 First Alert Chief Meteorologist Haley Clawson found that the wet winter has firefighters concerned about wildfires this year. The growth from the record rains can become wildfire fuel once it has died and dried up. The   

MORE: Click here to see the areas most at risk for wildfires this year

Though much smaller in scale, two recent fires in the Coachella Valley pulled crews to douse flames fueled by vegetation. Just last month, a wildfire in Mecca closed streets. An April brush fire in Mecca left 30 acres scorched.

Zak Dahlheimer will have more on this exercise tonight at 5 and 5:30 on KESQ and CBS Local 2. 

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