Nevada Training Academy Gets $3M Fed Grant

The U.S. Department of Energy has approved $3 million to continue to fund anti-terrorism and flammable liquid fire training for municipal and rural firefighters at the University of Nevada, Reno Fire Science Academy. The 2006-07 grant was recently approved as the third installment of a three-year federal grant and represents a $500,000 increase in funding over the previous two years, for a three-year total of $8 million in support.

Denise Baclawski, executive director of the Fire Science Academy, credits U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for helping secure the funds needed for the academy to train emergency responders from all 50 states in containment of flammable liquid fires resulting from terrorist activity and natural disasters.

"Senator Reid understands the vital role Nevada's Fire Science Academy has to play in preparing the nation's emergency responders -- firefighters who would normally never have an opportunity for training like this," Baclawski said. "It is because of Senator Reid's support that we received this grant money. His ongoing support is greatly appreciated by all."

To date, 1,075 firefighters from 696 rural, municipal and volunteer fire departments in all 50 states have attended the Fire Science Academy on full scholarships as recipients of the grant-funded training. Admission to the program is by application. Tuition, travel expenses, lodging, meals and equipment rental are included in the scholarship, which is targeted to train firefighters who have had limited exposure to live flammable liquid fire training.

"Flammable liquid fire fighting is unique. Significantly different strategies and tactics are required for this kind of disaster versus a structure, or class A-type fire, which is what most firefighters train for," Baclawski said. "Every community in the United States has some kind of flammable liquid installation. We're honored to be able to train these firefighters for events they will very likely experience sometime in their careers. Our goal is to secure this as a permanent funding source to grant this training to every firefighter who wants it."

Gas stations, pipelines, fuel trucks, oil storage tanks or industrial facilities manufacturing or storing flammable liquids found in any community are susceptible to large-scale flammable liquid fires, and may be vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

"What's great about this training is that it not only brings in the global terrorism aspect, but also hands-on fire fighting skills that can come into play any time -- the kinds of things we've responded to in the past," said Deputy Chief Tim Nelson of the Holyoke, Mass., Fire Department. The 24-year veteran firefighter completed the FSA's grant-funded training in November 2005.

"If we run into a large-scale event of this nature, we're going to be working with other jurisdictions. Those of us who trained were from all over the country; we were thrown together and learned how to work as a team on the fly, just like we'd have to in the real world. It was great to see how well this could work and to know that there are so many other folks out there doing what we're doing, that we're not alone."

The weeklong, 32-hour training program is held several times a year at the academy and includes a six-hour module on terrorist behaviors and tactics, as well as sections on the chemistry of flammable liquids and gases, hose handling, the use of dry chemical extinguishers with water or foam, high volume foam application, use of existing equipment, planning for hazards, and proper storage of flammable and combustible liquids. The concepts learned in the classroom are applied through hands-on live-fire training on the FSA's state-of-the-art prop field.

Dr. Jim Richardson, director of the University of Nevada, Reno Grant Sawyer Center for Justice Studies, leads a team of University faculty representing sociology, social psychology, political science, economics and bereavement studies in preparing grant recipients to deal with the intangibles of facing a terrorist attack, covered in the six-hour terrorist behavior module.

"Firefighters need to know more than how to handle hoses and respond to the physical dangers of a terrorist attack," Richardson said. "In training these firefighters from across the country, we must address the history, tactics and psychology of terrorism, as well as how to deal with the loss of colleagues who are injured and dying on duty. It is a new world since 9/11, and students have been very appreciative of this training."

The $3 million grant installment will fund training for approximately 660 firefighters from municipal, rural and volunteer departments across the nation from July 2006 through June 2007. FSA officials hope to secure another grant to continue to fund this training over several more years.

To date, 37 Nevada firefighters from 23 departments have completed the training, representing communities including Yerington, Pahrump, Elko, Minden, Owyhee, Spring Creek, Jarbidge, Reno, Sparks, Carson City and Las Vegas. Baclawski expects as many as 70 Nevadans will complete the training by July 2007.

The University of Nevada, Reno Fire Science Academy has trained firefighters and emergency personnel from businesses and government agencies from all 50 states and nearly 40 countries. As one of the finest emergency response-training programs and facilities in the world, the FSA's 426-acre campus in Carlin, NV, provides scheduled courses as well as customized training. The academy includes multimedia classrooms and state-of-the-art training grounds and props for industrial fire fighting, hazardous materials, aircraft, structural, mine rescue and extrication exercises. Burnable props utilize liquid petroleum fuels in real-life situations.

For more information about the U.S. Department of Energy/FSA training scholarship and other training programs, visit the University of Nevada, Reno Fire Science Academy , email fireacademy@unr.edu, or call (775) 754-6003 or toll free, 1-800-233-8928.

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