Los Angeles County Fire Chief Kicks Off Firehouse World

SAN DIEGO -- Predict, practice, perfect and practice again.

That's the message Los Angeles County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman stressed Tuesday to the thousands of responders attending opening ceremonies at Firehouse World.

Following the presentation of the colors, footage from Al Simmons of raging, deadly wildfires came to life on the screen. Attendees sat quietly as they watched as blazes consumed houses and everything in its wake.

San Diego Chief Tracy Jarman urged people to take care of themselves during these tough economic times. She commended people for attending the training despite the budget woes.

The chief also urged them to remain focused on the core mission -- saving lives and property.

Freeman's keynote address was peppered with dramatic video of recent wildfires as well as a blaze last year that claimed the King Kong exhibit at Universal Studios and the aftermath of an earthquake.

"Can first responders meet the challenges?" he asked. "To that, I say there are responders who think they can and those who can."

Every community across the nation faces its own challenges. It's essential that responders really take a look around to see the potential issues, and plan accordingly.

"It could be a railroad that runs through town. Are they prepared for the potential Hazmat situations. High-rises have their own challenges that need to be planned for."

He urged people to pay attention and think ahead. It's the unexpected that catch people off guard.

First responders also should listen to the predictions, and be as prepared as possible. Across California, everyone is preparing for the earthquake they know is coming.

Experts have been watching the movement along the San Andres Fault, and predicted a major quake is probable every 150 years. Freeman says it's now three years overdue.

With the prediction of an extended vibration, underground pipelines will rupture and shut off water supplies. "With as many as 1,600 simultaneous fires, and no or little water, we're talking a major conflagration."

Freeman said planning is essential. Everything must be taken into consideration. Damaged bridges and roads may prevent mutual aid companies from getting in.

Taking care of the injured will have to be a cooperative effort. Triage areas and field hospitals will have to be established. People from various agencies have their own disaster plans that they've shared with others.

Hopefully, crews will get enough warning to get their rigs out of the stations.

Freeman said planning is just as important for the everyday incidents. While his department trains for wildfires and earthquakes, other companies across the country have their unique challenges.

"I want people to walk away from this -- predicting, practicing, perfecting and practice again."