USA — PRESCOTT – Friday is the deadline for people to sign up for Arizona Wildfire and Incident Management Academy classes.
The academy is the premier wildland firefighting training venue in the state. It takes place March 9-16 at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott during the university’s spring break, and more than 500 students from as far away as Australia already have signed up.
Classes teach everything from chainsaw use to cal-culating wildfire danger in residential areas to ad-vanced command techniques on complex incidents.
“The quality instruction and training opportunities are just paramount,” Academy Incident Commander Pete Gordon said, noting that emergency response needs during wildfires and hurricanes have been getting more complex in recent years.
Seasoned instructors teach more than 40 classes to firefighters at all skill levels at the academy, and a basic firefighting class helps people with no experience get a foot in the door.
“It’s not just a class,” Gordon said. “It’s run like an incident, so students learn about the Incident Command System environment.”
The staff and student structure directly mimics the ICS structure. Students can camp out on campus, attend daily morning briefings and get meals on site just like firefighters battling wildfires or other disasters.
“This promotes information exchange as well as fosters good working relationships needed on the scene of future incidents,” Gordon said.
The donation of a truck by Tim’s auto sales of Prescott last year helped the non-profit academy raise about $14,000, and nearly $10,000 already has gone to scholarships, Academy Coordinator Tony Sciacca said.
About two-thirds of the academy’s students are volunteer and rural firefighters whose departments have limited money for training, he noted. They often are the first to arrive at wildfires with a chance to extinguish them while they’re small.
“I think Arizona’s wildland firefighters are the best in the nation, and we can attribute a good part of that to the training they get at the Arizona Wildfire Academy,” said State Forester Scott Hunt, a long-time supporter of the academy.
Details about courses and scholarship applications are available online at azwildfireacademy.org. Call 442-3563 for more information.