Boulder Creek Fire Protection District (BCFPD) Chief Mark Bingham can do just about anything.
Since his promotion to fire chief in 2019, Bingham has proven his mettle time and again. He’s managed his team during the Covid-19 pandemic, structure and wildland fires, and the juggernaut of “what ifs” that are part and parcel of overseeing a volunteer fire department in the rugged terrain of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
For all Bingham has learned in his year in the fire service, he knows one thing for sure: You can never have too much training.
Bingham proved that theorem once again by hosting a four-day, multi-agency operations training at the end of May.
“The training we conducted ran for 96 hours straight. It started on Sunday, May 23 and ran through the 26,” he said. “With the motivation and desire to be prepared, the BCFPD conducted the largest and longest running training in our department’s history. I couldn’t be more proud of the men and women of Boulder Creek Fire District.
Bingham said five agencies participated, and that they hosted around 60 people each day. Some of the scenarios in the training included water rescue, mud flows, high-angle rope rescue, search and rescue, heavy vehicle rescue entanglement, debris flow road closure, structural collapse and confined space rescues.
Attendees worked around the clock and found themselves using the Jaws of Life®, trudging through the San Lorenzo River and practicing civilian rescues at all hours. The intensive training mimicked scenarios that rescuers might encounter during an actual emergency, and Bingham said he was impressed with the outcome, the learning and the attitudes of all involved.
According to the Chief, the objectives for the training were:
1) To push BCFPD’s response capabilities with multiple technical rescues being performed simultaneously in different areas of the District.
2) Show proficiency with the new equipment volunteers have been training on in a scenario setting.
3) Use the equipment the Department has to mitigate the scenario, while identifying any gaps that need to be filled.
4) Challenge command staff to manage and track those incidents while practicing the skill of resource ordering. (Resources for USAR incidents are different from the normal resources that are ordered when fighting structure fires or wildland fires.)
5) Strengthen teamwork and leadership skills.
After the four-day training, attendees were exhausted, but prepared for real-life scenarios that might occur due to debris flows or other natural disasters, Bingham said.
“Overall I am very happy with the outcome and how our members performed. We are very grateful for the participation of all who helped to coordinate and those who physically participated in the training,” said Bingham.