Firefighters getting drilled on wildfire responses in the local hills

Hose operations and helicopters involved

Fire crews practiced techniques Wednesday  in Goleta that they will use in a wildland fire. (John Palminteri/

GOLETA, Calif. - Fire crews pulled hoses and worked side by side with a helicopter to prepare for the upcoming fire season.

May through October has generally been the peak months for fire, but that can change in an instant as we saw in December of 2017 with the massive Thomas Fire that began in Santa Paula and burned all the way to Santa Barbara.

The drill Wednesday involved firefighters from Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties.

The site chosen was the area where the Holiday Fire exploded out of the Goleta foothills around Fairview Avenue last year, destroying 28 homes and many acres vegetation.

Captain Daniel Berticelli with Santa Barbara County Fire says many of the firefighters are aware of the "urban intermix area" where fires can begin and be destructive very fast.

The crews looked at maps, made assessments and determined how to take on fires in the area, either right at the source or on the perimeters.

Gary Gruetzemacher, a property owner stopped to talk about his experience.

"House across the street burned to the ground, my house burned to the ground, across the street burned to the ground, all these houses burned to the ground," he said. 

He hoped for more fire crews but found a special strike team was already in position the night of the fire and responded in moments.

"The ultimate goal is to knock down the fire and ensure that that fire can not carry into neighborhoods or carry into another canyon where we have an even bigger problem," said Bertucelli.

The firefighters also practiced laying a hose line up a steep hill and, in some cases, fighting a fire at the same time.

Near Winchester Canyon in an open field they filled up a helicopter with water as part of a scenario that did not involved a nearby lake or pond as a water source.

It is a precise connection that needs to be done efficiently in order to get the chopper into an effective rotation on the flame fronts. Passersby also saw the chopper in the sky making drops on a nearby hill.

Agencies involved included Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara City, Montecito, Guadalupe, Santa Maria, Five Cities, Vandenberg, Cal Fire, and the Los Padres National Forest fire departments.

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