One of the largest of its kind in the U.S., the 2017 Wildfire Academy, June 5-9 at Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids, drew more than 700 students from nine states.
The 17th annual training event is gaining national recognition for its diverse course offerings and highly regarded instructors. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is a key contributor to the academy with 100 instructors from various partner agencies teaching 34 different courses.
“Wildland firefighters continually train to sharpen their skills and maintain expertise,” said Todd Manley, DNR wildfire training coordinator. “The academy offers essential skills, training and certification to increase this knowledge base – from basic firefighter, to a water pump or chainsaw class, to helicopter operations,” said Manley, who has an incident management team (IMT) helping to oversee academy operations.
The team uses an incident command system (ICS) model that was adopted 35 years ago for wildfire operations. Nationally recognized, ICS has a common operating picture, so when teams or crews go out-of-state, there are established roles, responsibilities and procedures.
“We use ICS for a planned event, such as the Wildfire Academy, but the model can also expand to coordinate large-scale, all-risk emergencies,” said Mike Aultman, incident commander for the academy and a 38-year DNR forester.
The Minnesota Incident Command System (MNICS) is hosting the Wildfire Academy. MNICS is an interagency group of state and federal partners that cooperatively manages wildfire and all risk incidents allowing for effective use of facility, personnel and equipment.
The DNR is one of five MNICS partners that share wildfire suppression resources, including aircraft and helicopters, and is based out of the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center in Grand Rapids. There are about 80 staff members located there from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Minnesota DNR, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, National Park Service and Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
“Our interagency partnerships are very important,” said Paul Lundgren, state wildfire section manager for the DNR Division of Forestry. “The Wildfire Academy is another example of our successful collaboration among state and federal partners. We work together toward a common purpose while leveraging resources to avoid duplication of effort and expense,” he said.
For more wildfire information, visit https://goo.gl/m7jd4m.