Monday, February 25, 2013

Wildland Firefighter Training

Training for becoming a wildland firefighter is fairly simple as long as you learn quickly, enjoy the outdoors, and have the right boots.

I was first hired as an AD firefighter and sent to a Wildfire Academy, which is basically a giant annual training session. I took the courses for becoming a type 2 firefighter (FFT2) which included:

I-100 Introduction to ICS
ICS is Incident Command System and is the structure for how all wildland fire resources operate. This system is also used for other emergency situations or natural disasters, and it's important to understand before jumping into the firefighting role.
Me at Wildland Firefighter Training

S-130 Firefighter Training
This class is the basics of all the practical things that you do as a firefighter. This course teaches everything from using basic firefighting tools to deploying in a fire shelter. It involves a lot of classroom time, but also includes a live fire experience (or at least a field day, if the actual fire isn't an option). In the field portion, you use a compass, calculate distances, light a fusee, and scratch line.

I was fortunate enough to have a live fire experience. We spent the night out in the wild a few miles from town (something fairly easy to come by when you live in Richfield, UT), ate our meals out of buckets (known as hot cans), and then the class instructors set a hill on fire for us to put out. It was fun, and that showed me that I was in the right place, even though I was one of three females, weighed about 110 pounds, and looked really goofy in the fire clothes (but who doesn't look goofy in yellow and green??). Look how clean my yellow was! In the fire world you don't want to be clean because that's the biggest indicator that you're a newby. I made special efforts to get my boots as dusty as they are in that picture...and you could still tell they were brand new.

L-180 Human Factors in the Wildland Fire Service
This is where you learn all about LCES--something I'll definitely address later, which stands for Lookout, Communication, Escape Route, and Safety. It involves all the human factors of firefighting--fatigue, stress, misunderstandings, etc., and it's absolutely critical to being safe on the fire line.

S-190 Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior
This class is so fascinating and I could take it over and over again just to be more acquainted with what I'm facing in my job, but also just because it's awesome stuff. In this class you learn all about the different cloud shapes and what they mean, along with the general characteristics that wildfires exhibit under certain circumstances. For instance, fire will move faster uphill than on flatlands. Another great class is S-290 Intermediate Wildland Fire Behavior which has more about clouds and storms and how to calculate and perceive what fires might do.

These are all just the basic classes. In addition, you have to pass the work capacity test of hiking 3 miles with a 45lb pack in 45 minutes or less, and the training you need for that is practice with speed walking and hiking.

One of the things I absolutely LOVE about being a wildland firefighter is that I get paid to learn. During the 40 hours of my initial training I got paid something like $11/hr to learn about wildfire behavior, how to start fires, the best way to suppress fires, how to use a compass and maps. I love this job. And I love every opportunity I get for new training.

Fire Away!

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