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Firefighters in state train at Destry Horton School

Firefighters attending the eighth annual Destry Horton Wildland and Emergency Medical Service Training School are able to gain much-needed experience in lighting backfires this weekend because the training is on a federal military installation.

Outside the gates of Fort Sill, Gov. Mary Fallin has put a burn ban in effect through midnight March 2 for 52 counties. Some additional counties in eastern Oklahoma have their own burn bans.

But at Firing Point 56 on the East Range, firefighters were able to put their classroom training into practice by using drip-torches to light backfires.

Lawton Fire Department Training Officer Jared Williams said that as a federal installation, Fort Sill isn't allowed to partner with the state on this school, but the Lawton Fire Department can be the host through its mutual aid agreement. Fort Sill does provide logistical support and opens up its ranges for LFD to bring in instructors and students.

"It's a good partnership between Lawton and Fort Sill that we're able to host this school," Williams told reporters Saturday. "We just can't thank Fort Sill enough for opening up their gates and allowing us to come out and use their great facilities. Nobody else wants to burn their property up, and we're also under a state-issued burn ban right now.

"Obviously we had a little moisture (Friday) night. We are going to be able to burn today safely, but if we were off-post we would not be able to do that. So it allows our firefighters a great training opportunity here with the post."

Williams said the school gives firefighters the opportunity to come out and perform live burns. There are approximately 13 to 15 different classes going on at this year's Wildland School, from medical courses to live fire, basic wildland courses up to advanced fire behavior courses.

Two classes were out for the ignition of Saturday's backfires on the East Range  the wildland engine company tactics class and the backfire class. They used their brush trucks to go out and engage the flames, working on skills they learned in the classroom Saturday morning.

"It's not only for certification but it's a huge safety aspect," Williams said. "Each year in the United States we have over a hundred firefighter deaths. So we need to go out and train our firefighters to fight the fire aggressively but also safely. The partnership with OSU (Oklahoma State University) Fire Service Training, Fort Sill and Lawton Fire Departments, allows us to bring in firefighters from all over the state, not just Southwest Oklahoma, to help them sharpen those skills and keep themselves safe."

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