Austin Fire Dept. cadets get hands-on wildfire training

On Tuesday, 35 Austin Fire Department cadets got hands on experience fighting wildfires.

"This training is invaluable for us.  There's a lot of things that we can talk about in the classroom but until your able to put hands on it, eyes on it...and feel it, see it and breath the're not able to take it all in," said Lt. Josh Anderson with AFD's Wildfire Mitigation Division.

Anderson describes the training as using a controlled environment to simulate a wildfire.  Then the cadets get to practice techniques like keeping the fire at bay and not letting it get any further.

And the conditions, the cadets are finding out, are essentially a tinder box.

"Some of those flames were getting 4 or 5 feet high and it was burning pretty bad.  I saw some of the trees torch up...and I did not expect it to be that hot," said cadet Zero Iaulualo.

"We had some rain earlier this Spring and it caused quite a bit of green-up and growth.  But now over the last month we haven't had any significant rain.  And that lack of rain has allowed our fuels, our grass to essentially dry out," Anderson said.

Last week was the 4 year anniversary of the Bastrop wildfire.

Wildfire Division Program Manager Justice Jones says in 2011 trees died in large numbers.  In the years since, vegetation has overgrown those dead trees making for a dangerous that could eclipse the Bastrop fires.

"We'll have more fuel than we had in 2011 so we're just waiting for conditions to align and when they do it could be a more catastrophic fire season than we saw in the past because of the increased amount of vegetation," Jones said.

AFD is encouraging people to be careful with tow chains or anything that might cause sparks.  They say not to be careless with cigarettes as well.