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Firefighters learn skills essential to protecting JBSA’s natural areas

  • Published
  • By Lori A. Bultman
  • 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas-- In April 2022, a wildfire at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis threatened training grounds essential to Department of Defense missions. Without properly trained personnel, and the assistance of community partners, tens of thousands of acres of natural wildlands may have been lost.

That did not happen because JBSA firefighters were prepared, just like those voluntarily attending the Air Force Civil Engineer Center Wildland Firefighting training July 18 and 19 at JBSA-Camp Bullis.

The course, led by Niles Ludlow, a Bureau of Land Management employee assigned to the Air Force Wildland Fire Branch, provides basic wildland firefighting skills and includes Red Card certification, the accepted interagency certification verifying a person is qualified for wildland firefighting.

“This is not mandatory training for Air Force Natural Resources and JBSA Fire Emergency Services, but it will provide better safety for personnel, because wildland fires are a very different type of firefighting,” Ludlow said. “These trainees have expertise in fight aircraft, house fires, and medical calls. In wildland fire, there is a different approach and tactics on how to safely engage the situation.”

The other key tools in JBSA’s firefighting armory are their Federal, state, and local community partners.

“The Air Force is now a part of the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, which is the overall governing body for wildland fire,” Ludlow said. “This means JBSA Fire Emergency Services will provide the initial response to fires on JBSA, but other agencies are available to assist.”

During last year’s fire, which still charred 3,000 acers, assistance was provided by the BLM, Texas State Forest Service, and Fredericksburg Task Force Strike Team, as well as local fire departments from Leon Springs, Bulverde, Shavano Park, and the Bexar County Task Force.

“One of our biggest missions out here at Camp Bullis is wildland fire, especially in summer when it is dry,” said Raymundo Parraguirre, a JBSA firefighter, Marine Corps veteran, and one of the volunteers for the training.

“We have fires out here ever year, whether they are prescribed burns or not,” he said, “This training gives us a good knowledge base to be able to perform and respond better.”

Parraguirre said the protection of the wildland areas at Camp Bullis is not only good for the habitat, it is essential for enabling realistic training scenarios for security forces, medical trainees, and military intelligence personnel, as well as National Guard members and Reservists.

Operations Chief Bob Ashley, JBSA Fire Emergency Services, agreed the training program enhances JBSA’s response capabilities and is a great benefit to the fuels reduction program as well. 

“Because of the Air Force CEC Wildland Module, we have been able to prescribe burn nearly 2,000 acres, each of the past two years,” he said.

See JBSA’s firefighting personnel in action at the April 2022 Camp Bulls wildfire below.