More Than 700 Firefighters Participate In 19th MN Wildfire Academy
“It truly does get better every year as a result of our experience. We learn from our mistakes. We correct them the following year. As an instructor, I say if I don’t learn from the students I failed somewhere, too,” says Ron Guck, operations section chief for the Minnesota Wildfire Academy.
For the past 19 years, firefighters of all skill levels have gathered at Itasca Community College and the University of Minnesota North Central Outreach and Research Center in Grand Rapids to train for with the best at Minnesota Wildfire Academy.
“It’s also a great opportunity for all the different agencies to come together and get to work together and train together before we have to actually go out on incidents, so we kind of know each other,” says Aaron Mielke, an incident commander trainee.
This year, the academy had exactly 723 students. As a whole, they represent exactly 14 states. Up to 27 different classes can be happening on any day of the academy that cover a wide variety of topics.
“Everything from swinging a Pulaski [hand tool] safely so that you don’t bash your shin, chainsaws so you don’t cut your leg. Safety is number one,” says Scott Belknap, team type 2 safety officer.
Each class can be taught by up to four or five instructors who each usually have decades of experience. One thing that’s truly valuable about attending is that the skills transfer to nearly any job, no matter the location.
“These are all national-based classes so if a person takes an engine boss course here at the Wildland Fire Academy, he can go out to California and do the engine boss position,” says Mike Aultman, incident commander.
The Wildfire Academy was made possible by many collaborators including the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, US Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Minnesota Fire Chiefs Association, the Fire Marshall’s office, Department of Public Health, Homeland Security, emergency management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Conservation Core, Itasca Community College, the University of Minnesota, The North Central Experiment Station Outreach Center, and Visit Grand Rapids. The academy will go until Friday.