Wildfire Academies Across the U.S.A.

Structural and Wildland Firefighters Training Together – Part 2 Robert M. Winston concludes this series with a look at major wildfire


As we have seen recently in California, the need for cross training to enable all firefighters to operate safely and effectively at wildland and wildland/urban interface (W/UI) fire incidents is an essential component of modern firefighting operations. Photo by Robert M...


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As we have seen recently in California, the need for cross training to enable all firefighters to operate safely and effectively at wildland and wildland/urban interface (W/UI) fire incidents is an essential component of modern firefighting operations.

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Photo by Robert M. Winston
Students are taught about helicopter operations by the Salt Lake City Bureau of Land Management Helitack Crew during the Utah Wildfire Academy.

Part one of this article in the November issue stated that without proper approved training, the firefighter and firefighting teams can be at great risk during the simplest wildland or W/UI fire. It also was noted that those risks increase exponentially at the larger more complex wildland and W/UI fires that have become more common across the country.

Wildfire academies are ideal settings where structural and wildland firefighters can join together to gain the required training to meet those demands. Last month's installment featured wildfire academies in Arizona and Colorado. This installment will focus on the other major wildfire academies that are held annually across the country.

Once again, it must be stressed that these academies are not only for wildland firefighters. Structural firefighters, whether they are career, volunteer, call, city, suburban or rural, municipal or private contract, are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Utah Wildfire Academy

The third annual Utah Wildfire Academy (UWA) brought hundreds of firefighters together to train and network from May 11-17, 2003, at the Deseret Peak Complex in Tooele. Twenty-seven courses were offered.

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Photo by Robert M. Winston
Mop-up is an important part of any fire. Here students learn the basics at the Utah Wildfire Academy.

As a direct result of National Fire Plan (NFP) funding, more volunteer firefighters than ever attended the UWA. The volunteer firefighters are invaluable because they are often the first on scene at wildland fires. Over 95% of wildland fires are extinguished in the "initial attack" phases. By training with firefighters from other agencies, volunteers increase their ability to fight fires as part of cooperative teams. At the 2003 UWA at least 112 volunteers from Utah received training, personal protective clothing and equipment as a direct result of funds from the NFP. Many firefighters from state, federal and private contractors also attended the UWA.

"This academy gives something to the Utah firefighting efforts that nothing else could," said Vi Hillman, UWA administrator and founder and Interagency Training Specialist. "People are coming from throughout Utah and the western United States. When so many firefighters are gathered together for training, it creates an incredible synergy between participants. This training is crucial to volunteer firefighters (and other firefighters). For each volunteer, the cost for UWA tuition and the protective clothing costs up to $400 per firefighter. They receive the training and clothing at no cost to them or their fire departments due to NFP funding."

To foster community relations and fire safety, a "Fire Awareness Day" was held on May 17 at the Utah State Fire Museum at the Deseret Peaks Complex. This year's UWA was a tremendous success. The next UWA will be held in Richfield in May 2004. For complete details go to the UWA's website at www.ut.blm.gov/fire/FireAcademy/intro.html or call Hillman at 801-539-4092 or Jaki Nordrum at 801-539 4127.

Alabama Wildfire Academy

Several years ago, while I was teaching the course "S 205 - Fire Operations in the Wildland/Urban Interface" at the Capital Area Wildfire Academy in Bastrop, TX, I met Pelham, AL, Fire Chief Gary Waters. He was in Texas because he had read an article in Firehouse® describing the Texas Wildfire Academy and he wanted to establish a similar academy in Alabama.

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Photo by Robert M. Winston
Live-fire training is safely used whenever possible to train students at the Utah Wildfire Academy. A Type 6 brush engine from the Tooele Fire Department stands by.
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