Minnesota Wildfire Academy Prepares Future Firefighters
Wildfires can spread fast and need to be handled quickly. The next level of firefighters were up to the challenge.
The 17th Annual Minnesota Wildfire Academy was held at Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids. About 700 students attended with backgrounds from several states and agencies.
“There’s just a shortage of people, so this gives a chance for people to come into the system and gain the training they need,” Air Support Group Supervisor Trainee Dustin Nelson. “So they can move on to work in Minnesota, work for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), U.S. Forest Service or even nationally.”
Laura Vincent has no firefighting experience but currently works at the U.S. Forest Service in Aurora. She jumped at the chance to fulfill one of her childhood dreams and one day hopes to become a smoke chaser.
“Working for the Forest Service, I do weeds May through October typically,” said Vincent. “If I can get on a fire in the early spring or in the fall, then that’ll help me to kind of continue working.”
There were more than 30 classes available for the five-day academy.
“They were working with hand tools digging lines as they would on a real fire,” said Nelson. “So they’re going through brush, going through timber and they’re working together as a 20 person team.”
A mock initial attack on fire demonstrated water dropping down to suppress the simulated fire using aircraft resources.
“They can give us some updates as far as what’s going on the fire,” said Nelson. Typically for us as ground firefighters we can handle stuff that’s four feet high.”
The public assists with a rapid response plan by calling 9-1-1 to report fires this helps keep the fires small and cost effective.