KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – If there’s a wildfire anywhere in America, a group of East Tennessee firefighters can now help those communities because of an added level of certification, commonly called a “Red Card.”
The Rural Metro Fire Department sharing on Facebook that 22 of their firefighters passed Red Card certification this week through the state’s Division of Forestry. This certification enables them to deploy all over the country if there’s a wildfire.
Red Card certification is recognized by the state, so if there’s a wildfire, these firefighters are already on a list and can be cherry-picked to deploy.
In November 2016, firefighters worked endlessly controlling the Sevier County wildfires.
“We found a little spot where we needed improvement,” said Rural Metro firefighter, Brad Rettig.
Rettig says firefighters needed to increase their awareness and techniques around wildland fires.
“When we have a year like 2016 the need for a crew like this is going to be through the roof and we’re going to be there to answer that call.”
The Red Card process requires 24 hours of online training, 8 hours of field work training, as well as fitness tests.
“It’s very strenuous work. We’ve done lots of training to get to where we are now,” said Rural Metro firefighter, Alex Kennedy.
“If they have a fire where it’s a 21-person crew and they may be one person short, we can jump in with them and fill that gap for them,” said Rettig.
Firefighters say lessons focused on techniques with hand tools. “It’s hand-to-hand combat with a fire in an open field,’ added Rettig.
Rettig explained there were lessons on finding alternate water sources.
“In a wildland fire, you’ve got what’s in the truck and that’s it. The general rule of thumb is you leave the truck half full. That last half of water is to protect you and your crew. So instead of running the truck dry, we keep that to protect ourselves.”
This is Rural Metro’s first group of Red Card-certified firefighters.
Kennedy says they’re better equipped to protect our community.
“Knowing what happened in 2016, knowing that we have a unit down here with us, we can be able to respond and have qualified personnel to go do the job and help out.”
The Tennessee Division of Forestry educates firefighters in Red Card Certification. Firefighters tell us Red Card certification is rare in the structure firefighting world.