Record number of attendees at Arizona wildfire academy

Above: Students use sand tables to visualize initial attack scenarios and learn how to make sound decisions in this S200 Initial Attack Commander course during the 2018 Arizona Wildfire and Incident Management Academy in Prescott, Arizona. Courtesy photo. 

An annual wildfire training camp’s enrollment ballooned to record numbers this year on the heels of an especially active fire season — and the release of Only the Brave.  

At least 1,020 students are partaking in the 51 classes offered at this week’s Arizona Wildfire and Incident Management Academy in Prescott, said Tony Sciacca, Executive Director of the academy, as reported by The Daily Courier in Prescott. In its 16 years of operation, the academy’s previous highest enrollment  was 730.

The academy has a capacity of 1060.

“It’s a significant jump,” Sciacca told the newspaper.

During the training, which began March 10 and lasts through Friday at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, attendees can pick from more than 50 NWCG, FEMA and other skills classes. Class offerings range from the entry-level S-130/190 to more advanced leadership or communications roles.

The Goodwin Fire burned 28,500 acres just outside of Prescott last year.  That, along with high-profile wildfires in California, might have piqued some interested in the academy, which is largely attended by Arizonans.

Additionally, there stands to be more money to go around this year. Arizona’s governor last month called for the doubling of the state’s investment in fire prevention funding for the upcoming fiscal year, from $1 million to $2 million.

And while it’s impossible to say, interest in wildland firefighting has surely increased since October’s release of Only the Brave. That film, of course, is based on the Granite Mountain Hotshots that fought not only wildfires for several years, but also battled with the establishment to finally be certified as the first Type 1 Interagency Hotshot Crew managed by a municipal fire department — the Prescott, Arizona Fire Department.

Field day for the 130/190 students

Posted by Arizona Wildfire and Incident Management Academy on Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Firefighters provide disaster management training in South Africa

Above: An Incident Management Team working in South Africa. Photo courtesy of Etienne du Toit.

From April 24 to May 12 the International Programs office put on 27 disaster management courses in southern Africa countries in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). The courses covered topics on the Incident Command System and National Incident Management System for over 200 trainees from South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. Twenty trainers—Forest Service employees and retirees, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation employees, New York Fire Department employees and South African colleagues—delivered the courses.

Since 2009, the Forest Service and OFDA have worked together to build the capacity of South African disaster responders with a focus on fire management. Since the program began, over 4,000 fire personnel have received training from the Forest Service in both South Africa and the United States. Some of the program’s early trainees are now acting as trainers in the region.

This training led to the creation of a firefighting team that in 2015 was deployed to Canada. South African Incident Management Teams have also assisted with flooding in Malawi and Mozambique and wildfires in Indonesia and Chile.

In 2014 the program broadened to encompass all-hazard emergency preparedness and expanded to two more countries in southern Africa: Namibia and Botswana.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Eric.
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Expertly training the tactical athlete

Professional-level physical training for wildland firefighters and others.

Yesterday the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center’s Facebook page linked to an organization in Jackson, Wyoming that trains tactical athletes, wildland firefighters, and other individuals. The Mountain Tactical Institute has numerous training programs and plans. Their customers can either purchase a written plan, or train in the company’s gym or “sport-specific cycle”. In light of the two recent serious injuries during physical training on the first and second day of the fire season, some of their guiding principles could be applicable in training wildland firefighters, especially those new to the job.

We are not affiliated with the company, but you may be interested in some excerpts from the company’s website:


Strong Swift Durable develops strength and conditioning which transfers to performance and durability on the mountain, battlefield, urban streets, and fire grounds.

All that matters is outside performance.

Our facility in Wyoming is a Strength and Conditioning Laboratory. At any one time we can be working with climbers aiming for Fitz Roy, female soldiers gunning for Ranger School, fire fighters developing a fitness assessment, airmen trying for PJ Selection, professional ultra runners building offseason strength, stock brokers with a GORCUK Challenge on the horizon and teenage girls preparing for soccer season.


FITNESS GOALS OF STRONG SWIFT DURABLE PROGRAMMING

  • High Relative Strength By “Relative Strength” we mean strength per bodyweight. This isn’t a power lifting regimine focused on how much you can lift. Not is it a body building program designed to make you look good. Our strength training is designed to get you as strong as possible without significant weight gain.
  • Rapid Movement Over Ground Sprinting, mid-distance running, hiking uphill under load. We want to get you faster.
  • High Work Capacity for Short/Intense Events We want to replace the pokey V-4 engine in your chest with a high horsepower, V-8.
  • Stamina for multiple events over a long duration. Stamina for a long event. Be able to go long and hard on day 1. Be able to do it again on day 2.
  • Mental Fitness Mental Fitness can be trained, and de-trained, just like physical fitness.
  • Durability It’s hard to stay fit and enjoy outside the gym sports and recreation when you’re hurt. We use strength training, core strength training and focused mobility work to keep our athletes in the gym, on the field, and in the mountains.

  • Embrace and celebrate the fact that soldiers/LE officers/Firefighters are professional athletes.
  • Articulate the responsibility Tactical Athletes have to themselves to be fit for duty – it’s link to survivability.
  • Articulate the responsibility Tactical Athletes have to their families to be fit for duty – their survivability.
  • Articulate the responsibility Tactical Athletes have to their partners and teammates to be fit for duty    tactical performance and survivability.
  • Fitness Improves Everything.

(For the Unit Fitness Leader)

You’ll need at most two types of group programming to get started – an OnRamp training plan to get guys spooled up, and daily training for everyone else.

[…]

Fat tactical athletes aren’t funny. “Legacy” members aren’t “special snowflakes” and experience is no substitute for fitness. No “slow” fires exist for unfit firefighters. No “slow” bullets exist for unfit soldiers and LE officers. Understand the poisonous effect unfit members and a poor fitness culture has on unit morale. Speak with actions and words. Be steadfast and direct, but never righteous or indignant, and never preach. Be a quiet, steadfast, professional.

[…]

No one can force or convince grown adult men and women to fix their diet and start a training program. Don’t let unit commanders force an adult parenting role upon you by sending you unfit, unhealthy members and expecting you to give them self discipline. You can be a resource for diet/training info, offer encouragement, and invite them to join the group onramp or regular training group, but you cannot make them attend or train.

Nebraska Forest Service acquires advanced wildland fire simulator

Above: Nebraska Forest Service Simtable. Screen grab from the KOTO video below.

We have written before about the Simtable that can project a spreading fire and an aerial photo onto a sand table that has been sculpted to resemble the topography for that area. It is an excellent training tool to simulate a potential fire or an actual on-going fire.

In this report from KDUH/KOTA the system recently acquired by the Nebraska Forest Service is described, including features that were new to me.

Below is an excerpt from the news coverage:

…NFS Fire Management Specialist Seth Peterson says the simulation gives fire officials advance knowledge of what they would need to do if a fire breaks out in a certain area. It could also make a big impact during a real wildfire event. A smartphone app for firefighters in the field can add valuable, on-site information to the simulator to make it react in real time.

“That iphone will know where he is on the map, and the IC (Incident Commander) will be able to see exactly where that firefighter is on the line. The firefighter can then update off his phone and basically feed the IC all the information he needs to be making all the decisions, without even being on the fire,” says Peterson…

Each simulator costs about $25,000.

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged “simulation”.

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Tactical Decision Making course removed from NWCG curriculum — again

Yarnell Hill fire
Air Attack’s photo of the Yarnell Hill Fire at 7:24 p.m. on June 29, 2013, after it had been burning for 26 hours. The next day, June 30, the fire intensity increased dramatically, trapping and killing 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

The S-336 training course, Tactical Decision Making in Wildland Fire, has been removed from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group curriculum. Mark Jones, chair of the Operations and Training Committee, signed a document on October 14, 2015 discarding the course.

S-336 is no longer required for any position in the interagency Wildland Fire Qualification System Guide (PMS 310-1), however the U.S. Forest Service requires it for their Strike Team Leaders.

The Committee’s argument for eliminating Tactical Decision Making was that other courses have scenario-driven training, including S-230 (Crew Boss), S-231(Engine Boss), S-236 (Heavy Equipment Boss), S-330 (Strike Team Leader), and S-339 (Division/Group Supervisor).

S-336 was also removed in 1993 by the NWCG, citing tactical training that was included in S-230 and S-330. By 1999 it was reinstated  because “incident management personnel and trainers in incident management believed that S-336 was a valuable training tool”.

The original name of the course was Fire Suppression Tactics but in 2004 it was changed to Tactical Decision Making in Wildland Fire.