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Hundreds of firefighters gather to train in southern Utah

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Posted at 9:38 PM, Jan 10, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-10 23:38:01-05

ST. GEORGE, Utah - Firefighters from all over Utah are in St. George this weekend brushing up on life saving skills.

It’s part of the Utah Fire and Rescue Academy’s annual Winter Fire Academy. In its 50th year, the event has grown to close to 800 firefighters from all over the state. And it’s not just the rookies; even seasoned fighters come to learn.

“The number of fires that we get has dwindled because of new construction and things like that,” said Utah Fire and Rescue Academy public information officer Gary Kilgore. “So we don’t have the opportunity to practice a lot of those skills.”

Instructors said when it comes to fighting fires, hands on is the best way to learn. So trailers set up at one of the local fire stations simulate a house fire and firefighters suit up and go in. Many of the rural areas of the state rely on volunteer firefighters, and, for them, it’s some of the best training they can get.

“You have a little time to get your surroundings and actually train,” Beryl Volunteer Firefighter Tom Cluff said. “I like that about it, because you’re not worried about it actually being the real thing.”

Instructors are teaching 40 different topics, from first aid to vehicle extraction. It’s all done so that when it is the real thing, those skills will be second nature.

“They’re perishable skills,” Instructor Karl Steadman said. “So, this gives them the most realistic opportunity that we can present to them to be able to give them the props and the equipment, be able to put those things together.”

The winter fire school goes through Saturday, then these firefighters will take those skills back and share them with their stations.