DWG National Park : Wildfire Safety Top Priority

Inside the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, in Bushkill, is the park’s fire department headquarters.

In the event of a fire inside the park, or a wildfire, it’s where federal firefighters and trained park rangers will meet.

But the difference with battling a wildfire could be a matter of life and death.

“Lots of changing conditions, of course you’ve got fire, and if conditions are right, you’ll have rapid fire spread,” said Cliff Lively, the park fire management officer.

On Sunday, 19 firefighters in Arizona were killed in a wildfire.

“The weather can change instantly. The winds can shift 180 degrees from the direction they were blowing,” said Lively.

At the national park in the Poconos, to try to prevent a rapidly spreading wildfire, fire crews will burn parts of the park.

This is called a “controlled burn” and it helps clear away the dead brush inside the park.  Dead brush that can add fuel to a wildfire.

The crews also use this as a training to sharpen their fire fighting skills.

One part of the training is to have a safety zone set up.

“It’s usually an area that’s not going to burn. It could be an open area,” said Lively.

In the event a wildfire is moving too quickly and firefighters can’t get to their safety zone, they’ll have to use their fire shelter.

It’s a tarp made from aluminum and fiber glass.

Firefighters will place the fire shelter over them and keep low to the ground by grabbing hold of straps inside.

“It’s meant to reflect radiant heat and protect you and give you an air space that has breathable air in it,” said Lively.

The fire shelters are folded up and attached to a firefighter’s gear.

Lively says these shelters aren’t fool-proof, but have saved the lives of hundreds of firefighters in the past.