Minnesota Wildfire Academy Returns for 22nd Year to Train New Talent
It’s that time of year when the heat rises along with the possibilities of wildfires.
That’s why Minnesota Incident Command System hosts their annual Minnesota Wildfire Academy in Grand Rapids to help train new talent for wildland firefighting. Held this week, the five-day program shows dedication from around the state to stop wildfires despite the rising cases of burnout in emergency personnel.
Whether it’s starting fires or putting them out, students at this year’s Minnesota Wildfire Academy continued the tradition of learning how to use important skills involving ignition, radio commands, and high-pressure hoses, not to mention leadership.
“We need firefighters every year. People are retiring or they get other jobs. They don’t have the time for it,” said Leadership & Basic Firefighting Course Instructor Chris Weir-Kotter. “It’s not a steady job for many people. Many people, it’s they get called in and they go.”
While students have the chance to learn and practice these skills in the field, some of the learning also happens inside the classroom.
“The first couple of days are pretty significant. Classroom PowerPoint presentations, learning the basic terminology and expectations once they get there,” explained Lead Instructor Meghan Ring. “Field days … allow them to get hands on interaction with the things that they’ve been learning the last couple of days in the class.”
While many of the courses have either remained the same or evolved over the two-decade-long academy, recent talks around mental health and burnout have also come to light.
“There’s lots of ways that we’re told that we can access help if we need things like [mental health support],” said Crew Boss Sarah Mattson. “Tragedies happen in wildland fire, just like in other places. And so it is an important things to be able to deal with.”
Courses started on June 5 and are expected to conclude on June 10. The academy reports there are over 300 students in this year’s program.