Wildfire Academy gaining nationwide prestige

Wildfire Academy gaining nationwide prestige

12 March 2010

published by www.dcourier.com

USA —  Nearly 1,000 wildland firefighting teachers, students and support staff will be in Prescott today through Friday for the 8th annual Arizona Wildfire & Incident Management Academy.

About 15-20 percent of the students are coming from out of state this year, more than ever before, Academy Coordinator Tony Sciacca said.

“The academy is gaining a reputation as the premier academy in the country,” Sciacca said.

More people from out of state also means more people staying in local hotels. Several have offered student discounts.

An outside economic analysis estimated the academy brings $800,000 to $1 million worth of direct economic impact to the Prescott region, Sciacca related.

This year also will feature the most-ever 400-level classes for the most experienced firefighters, including a class to certify qualified wildland firefighting instructors.

Other new classes include one that offers detailed training on the use of GPS devices.

Also for the first time, academy instructors will be offering specialized off-site training this year for individual fire agencies in the Phoenix area in April.

“We’re trying to be on the cutting edge of education,” Sciacca said.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University plays host the academy while ERAU students are on Spring break.

Instructors come from numerous federal, state and local agencies.

“Our goal was to truly make it an interagency academy with all the instructors, and this year is the first year we’ve been able to do that,” Sciacca said.

The public can see the academy in action by stopping by on VIP day Tuesday. Go to the public information office in the Davis Learning Center or call 777-FIRE.

The academy is set up like a real fire camp, with daily morning briefings, meals and a structure based on the same incident command system as real wildland fires.

The academy offers lots of field work for students, including a real-life prescribed burn each year if conditions are favorable.

This year, organizers plan to do a prescribed burn Thursday in the Groom Creek area south of Prescott unless the area has too much snow.

In that case, firefighters will burn piles of cut wood at the City of Prescott’s Community Nature Center near the corner of Williamson Valley and Iron Springs roads.

Donations of time from various agencies and firefighters keep the costs down for students at the non-profit academy.

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