And WALK...don't run!
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Firefighters lugging packs, learning ropes for fire season
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BURLEY, Idaho (AP) - U.S. Bureau of Land Management firefighters
who intend to battle range fires in the summer heat must strap on
their 45s.
That means carrying a 45-pound backpack over a three-mile course
in under 45 minutes.
About 50 new firefighters are training this week at the South
Central Idaho BLM fire school. They are learning what they will
need to know as part of a crew that will fight between 120 and 130
fires expected this season.
Fire information officer Sky Huffaker said agency officials
expect an average wildfire season, which would burn about 90,000
acres in the area of City of Rocks, Bellevue and Rogerson.
To make sure firefighters can do what they need to do, they are
given the three-mile pack test at the beginning of each new season,
she said.
"This simulates having a fire pack and all your gear," said
Jeff Bedke, fire operations supervisor. "It shows us they are in
condition and able to fight a fire out on the line. It tests their
endurance and stamina."
"It got easier toward the end because you're numb," Katie
Teeter said after finishing her test Monday.
Fire crew jobs start out at a little more than $8 an hour,
Huffaker said. Crew members are paid time-and-a-half for anything
more than eight hours.
"They do get quite a bit of overtime," Huffaker said. "And
when they are on a fire they also get hazard pay."
The money will come in handy for Teeter, who is studying
athletic training, physical education and health at the University
of Idaho.
For the next two weeks, the firefighters learn about safety,
participate in drills, and learn as much as possible about the
fires they may face.
More seasoned firefighters usually finish the pack test first.
"After they stop and catch their breath, they get back on the
track and encourage the new ones," Huffaker said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press