Pelham firefighters battle blazes in Fla., Ga.

With more than 400,000 acres of wild land devoured near the Georgia-Florida state line, seven Pelham firefighters are trying to do their part to hold back the flames.

Harry Kepler, president of the Alabama Wildfire Academy, has trained and worked alongside the local firefighters.

&8220;It&8217;s hot. Dirty. Long hours. Dangerous at some times and extremely dangerous at others,&8221; Kepler said of the work Pelham&8217;s men are doing. &8220;You&8217;re always on your toes even though its not a raging fire; in one minute the wind could change direction.&8221;

In Georgia, Pelham Fire Chief Gary Waters and training Chief David McCurry are both working as structure protection specialists, while EMS Chief Danny Ray is working medical operations along fire lines. Firefighters Jeff Hay, Jim Terrell, John Meredith and Thomas Nails are also spread out amongst the two states on various assignments.

Robin Wilkinson, administrative assistant for the Pelham Fire Department said the men are not only protecting other state&8217;s forests but also gaining skills to protect areas of Shelby County.

&8220;Ever since our boys have gotten red-carded, they have gone out West numerous times,&8221; Wilkinson said. &8220;But we have had wildfires here as well and their training has really been put to good use. A forest fire in March of this year started out with simply burning leaves and got out of control.&8221;

In order to get red-carded, a firefighter must go through rigorous training as well as an Arduous Work Capacity test.

Cathy Cline, coordinator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture&8217;s Forest Service Wildland Resource Center, said getting more firefighters trained in wildland protection is vital because each one can only work for a two-week interval. Hundreds of skills needed during a large-scale fire, she said.

&8220;The guys from Pelham have been sent out as paramedics, structural protection specialists and medical unit leaders,&8221; Cline said. &8220;We have used them in several situations because it takes several years for a new firefighter to become qualified to work these types of events.&8221;

Almost 1500 firefighters from across the country have worked or are still working to contain the fires in Georgia and Florida