Fire training drill uses night vision goggles

Early Friday morning, the Kern County Fire Department wrapped up a nighttime fire training exercise in Tehachapi. Firefighters statewide took part in the drill, using night vision goggles.
BAKERSFIELD, CA- Early Friday morning, the Kern County Fire Department wrapped up a nighttime fire training exercise in Tehachapi. Firefighters statewide took part in the drill using night vision goggles.

It's the first drill of its kind here in Kern County. Crews had special training battling a wildfire at night from the air, and on the ground.

Local fire crews say once the sun goes down, fighting a fire is completely different.

County firefighter Martin Galvan said, "At night it's more intense. The adrenaline is rushing even greater. You can't see."

Fire officials started a controlled burn in Tehachapi as part of a drill to train crews how to work at night.

County fire department public information officer Sean Collins said, "Just the best training that anybody can have because we're coordinating helicopters, we're coordinating helicopters with ground crews. We're able to call in drops."

Firefighters say using the goggles is challenging. They can become dizzy and aren't able to use peripheral vision.

Collins said, "They take whatever natural, ambient light there is around. We have 53% moon right now. There's no cloud cover, so even the ambient light that's produced by the stars is enough for the goggles to intensify that, magnify that light and you're able to see surprisingly clearly."

Fire officials say without night vision goggles, it would not be possible to fight fire from the air.

"It helps us see our hazards such as power lines, the mountains. Mountain flying is very dangerous an night. You can't see where the peaks are at and how tall trees are. This gives you every detail, just like it would in the daylight," said Galvan.

Collins said, "Night flying is not new. However, it's very challenging because obviously you can't see hazards, trees, or people on the ground, electrical wires or anything like that."

The training involved 300 firefighters and nine helicopters.
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