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It may be unusual for a forest fire to be burning in downtown Provo, but to the 400 fire-fighters in town for some serious training at the 28th Annual Utah Fire School, it was pretty much routine.

Sponsored by the Utah fire marshal's office and the Utah Fire and Rescue Academy, the fire school took place over two days and involved firefighters statewide.Firefighters attended a variety of 30 courses, learning to deal with hazardous materials, rescue techniques, fire codes and safe firefighting tactics.

As part of the event, they competed against one another in a series of speed and physical contests in the second annual Utah State Fire Games Friday night, testing their mettle in actual ground-fire simulations.

The latest in equipment and firefighting apparatus was on display.

"The recent outbreak of wildlands fires in Utah and adjoining states emphasizes the need for all communities to be prepared for fire-related emergencies," said Terry Spoor, assistant director of the Utah Fire and Rescue Acad-e-my.

"Part of the mission of the Fire and Rescue Academy is to provide this annual training event to better prepare the firefighters of Utah to deal effectively with emergency situations. Through training and education and participation in the fire school, they are better able to accomplish this," Spoor said.

Some firefighters missed the event because they were doing just that - fighting fires.

In Provo, the exercises included combating a propane-lit metal "tree" that closely replicated an actual burning fir or pine.

Concentrated pumping would seem to have the flames out only to let them burst forth again in a fireball.

Crews, dressed in the heat in heavy protective suits, fought the fires all through the afternoon, gaining valuable skills along the way that could someday mean the difference between life and death.