Wildfire Academy Offers On-The-Job Training

Wildfire Academy Offers On-The-Job Training

 17 October 2007

published by  www.zwire.com

USA — Providing real-life experiences to those who work to protect thepopulation from the devastation wildfires can bring, the 10th annual New YorkWildfire and Incident Management Academy will be held at Brookhaven NationalLaboratory in Upton, from October 25 to November 4.

Battling the Blaze—Participants in this year’s New York Wildfire and Incident Management Academy, which will be held from October 25 through November 4, will have the opportunity to gain real-life experience in incident management. Presented by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Central Pine Barrens Wildfire Task Force, the event, for the first time ever, will offer an Incident Management Team Workshop and an Incident Management Team Trainee Program. This year’s class is expected to have “over 500 students and instructors” participating, according to academy coordinator Charles Hamilton. The figure is the highest since 2003, when 612 students enrolled and 40 instructors taught the classes. The state DEC will be joined by various federal, state and county organizations, including the Colorado Wildfire and Incident Management Academy.
The NY Wildfire and Incident Management Academy was formed in 1998, three years after the 1995 Long Island Pine Barrens wildfires swept across eastern Long Island, Hamilton explained. “We started bringing in instructors from the Colorado Wildfire Academy to help get us going,” he noted.
Twenty-nine different courses will be offered this year, including leadership classes in prescribed fire training. Rookie and veteran firefighters can take leadership courses as extended attack incident commanders, situation unit leaders, resources unit leaders, task force/strike team leaders and field observers. Four incident command system classes will be offered for entry-level emergency response personnel and agency executives who will oversee emergency response efforts.

The incident management training workshop is a new program that is being doneat the academy and “not done anywhere else in the nation,” Hamiltonsaid. “About one-third of what we do [at the academy] is incidentmanagement. We use [these skills] for oil spills, hurricane damage and 911 [calls].”
As for what sparked this idea, Hamilton said that when the TWA Flight 800 planecrash occurred in July of 1996, he saw a need for an incident managementtraining system on Long Island.
During the five-day program, students are taught by the Suffolk County IncidentManagement Training team, the Fire Department of New York, the New York PoliceDepartment and fire chiefs and emergency medical services technicians from theNew England area.
“We’re actually training people to work on incident management training,”Hamilton said. “We train them for three days, with the remaining two [days]to work on real-life situations.” The goal of the workshop is for thestudents to “work as a team,” he said.
Kerry Gregg, who has attended the academy seven times, will be suiting up forthe academy again this year. He said he got his first exposure to wildfiretraining during the Pine Barrens wildfires, and has since taken a dozen classes.”For the first course, you have to [learn] the basics,” he said. Thoseinclude wildland fire suppression, learning how to operate portable pumps andchainsaws, fire engine workshops and weather. “We learn how the weather andtopography affect the fire’s behavior,” he noted.
This year, Gregg will serve in the Incident Management Team Trainee Program.”I’ll help run the academy instead of taking a class,” he said.
As a trainee at the academy, Gregg will be given certain tasks that will besigned off on when they are completed. “That way, I can go out west on anincident management team,” he said, adding that he has gone on many fireassignments in Oregon with NYS forest rangers since 2002. In addition, he spent38 months in Iraq as a firefighter. “We fought structural [fires],” hesaid. “We ran the gamut – motor vehicle accidents, emergency service, carfires and wildfires.”
When coordinating efforts among emergency personnel at the local, state andfederal levels under any given situation, a chain of command is established asper the National Emergencies Act, which was passed in 1976 to determine eachagency’s role when a state of emergency is declared. “No matter where yougo, [the protocols] are done the same way,” Hamilton said. “I’m alogistics coordinator, so wherever I go, I know what I have to do.”
If, for example, an offshore oil spill occurred, the chain of command from thetop down would consist of the US Coast Guard, the NYS DEC, the town’s firemarshal, the local fire department and, if needed, the Suffolk County Departmentof Health Services. “It’s a unified command,” Hamilton said. “Theyput aside their egos, put aside who’s in charge, and they set up goals andobjectives.”
Although the registration deadline has passed, Hamilton said any potentialstudents can receive an invitation to see the academy in action. The nextacademy will be at BNL from October 24, 2008 to November 2, 2008. “We’llstill have 50% to 60% wildfire training and 40% incident management training,”he said of next year’s classes. “We’re very happy to be able to providetraining. We pop out students, but we also pop out students who are instructors.”
Gregg added that he has found the academy training to be very useful. “Ilearned a great deal,” he said, adding that his consistent attendance atthe academy has allowed him to network with other firefighters. “It hashelped me advance myself in the wildfire community.”

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