USA — In the next several months, the Nebraska Forest Services Wildland Fire Training Program expects to train about 500 firefighters across the state to prepare for another major wildfire season.
Continuing intense drought, increased forest fuel loads and the spread of eastern redcedar, at a rate of about 38,000 new acres per year, have created an explosive potential for very large and more complex wildfires statewide. More than 1,500 wildland fires were reported in Nebraska last year.
Through May, the Nebraska Forest Service will offer classes to promote safety and review the most effective firefighting techniques for wildfires, fireline safety refresher training (Red Card training) and the Nebraska Wildland Fire Academy.
Nebraska experienced the worst fire year on record in 2012, burning nearly 500,000 acres (68,634 of which were forested), 65 structures, hundreds of miles of fence and costing at least $12 million, said Casey McCoy, NFS wildland fire training manager. Crown fires were common, sending walls of flame high above the forest canopy and spewing whirling firebrands ahead of the fire, where they fell on tinder-dry fuel and rooftops.
Fireline safety refresher training (Red Card training) focuses on core content subjects. The Nebraska Wildland Fire Academy provides fire and incident management training and uses the expertise of local fire officers to meet the fire training needs of western Nebraska and the surrounding region. The academy classes provide the training needed for firefighters to become nationally certified wildland firefighters.
It is imperative that Nebraska firefighters adapt to the growing complexity of fire management; these classes are one step in the process of helping firefighters and communities prepare for managing complex wildfires, said McCoy. Nebraska has 476 rural fire districts and a total of more than 14,000 firefighters. NFS helps maximize the impact of the existing (predominantly volunteer) force of local firefighters across the state. In the future, NFS staff members also hope to employ other techniques to help firefighters prepare for wildfire, including:
* Expand Firewise wildfire safety and fuels reduction programs to reduce risk to homeowners, developers and rural landowners.
* Continue to improve fire suppression training and firefighting resources to ensure that well-trained, well-equipped firefighters are available to respond.
* Improve ability to provide rapid, aggressive and effective initial attack and coordinated extended attack. Firefighters were stretched much too thin in 2012.