Thursday, May 31, 2012

Prince William Forest Park Week 2

The second week at Prince William was full of a variety of fun activities and experiences.  On Tuesday, I spent the day continuing to work on the hazardous fuel reduction project.  We continued to work along Burma Road for the day, cutting away and removing fuels from the road.  Wednesday, we traveled with Chief Ranger Cyndee Sirk-Fear and Ranger Dave Ballam to Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park and took the PEB with several rangers from that park.  It was nice to see some of the battlefield as well as meet more park rangers.  Once we returned to the Prince William that day, Jessica, Subhi and I helped in cleaning the grills at the Oak Ridge Campground in preparation for a large number of campers expected over Memorial Day weekend.  Thursday was certainly an awesome day, since I got to complete a wildland fire refresher and catch up and hang out with ProRangers from several parks in the region.  We took part in fire shelter drills, constructed a fireline and some hose lines.  During the afternoon we were divided into three squads to dig the firelines and this was great experience since it illustrated how critical communication and working as a unit are in order to dig a strong line, as well as ensure that everyone remains safe while working.  Friday, we had the opportunity to travel to Harper’s Ferry and drive through a Non-Emergency Vehicle Operations Course.  There was an assortment of different law enforcement vehicles for us to drive, including a Ford Crown-Victoria, F-150, Expedition, and Dodge Charger.  It was a lot of fun to drive through the course a couple times and get a feel for different vehicles and how they handled.  Finally, I wrapped up the week with a ride-along on Saturday night.  The ranger I rode with stressed the importance of obtaining a “baseline” at the beginning of the shift.  This includes an initial patrol through the park, looking for what belongs or should be in a given area and what does not, in addition to observing such things as which vehicles are parked where, and what campsites are occupied.  This is also extremely important so when the ranger patrols past that particular area again, whether it is a campground or parking lot, he knows what has changed since he last drove through that area.  Late in the shift, and well after dark, he caught three individuals drinking alcohol in one of the parking lots, now a closed area, and after contacting them, found marijuana and more alcohol in their vehicle.  Eventually, he cited each person for several violations.  It was interesting to watch the contact develop, while observing how he approached and dealt with multiple subjects, articulating to me exactly how he was able to search their vehicle.  I certainly learned plenty from this contact alone.  Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to train and spend time with fellow ProRangers, and definitely look forward to the week ahead.

Charles Papacostas


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