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Monday, May 23, 2011

Virginia's 11th Annual Interagency Wildfire Training Academy

About 350 firefighters from throughout Virginia will gather in Farmville at the annual Virginia Interagency Wildfire Training Academy. This year will mark the 11th academy which had its origin at the military base at Fort Pickett. We have come such a long way and although the location has changed and the training rooms, lodging and meals have improved what has stayed the same is the dedication of the Overhead Incident management team. A tremendous effort is required to organize and conduct this event, many agencies/organizations support the Virginia Department of Forestry’s efforts to develop the best trained wildfire fighters in Virginia.  

The Academy is run as if t was an Incident and every morning there is a briefing for students and instructors.

The annual four-day Fire Preparedness Exercise brings together firefighters from every agency in the county to interact and hone their skills through a variety of drills while wearing full safety gear and carrying firefighting tools.
Nearly 4,000 firefighters will have gone through the training. Below praying to the "gods" or chanting "were #1" no just checking which way the tree is leaning during the chainsaw class.

“With financial support provided by the National Park Service, we are able to bring together hundreds of paid and volunteer firefighters, who are already outstanding structural firefighters, and teach them everything from the basics of wildland firefighting to the use of chain saws and fire plows to advanced tactics and leadership.”
In addition to the structural firefighters, a number of “students” at the academy come from the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) and three other state agencies (Department of Conservation and Recreation, Department of Corrections, and the Virginia National Guard), as well as two federal agencies - the US Forest Service (USFS) and the National Park Service (NPS).  The 65 instructors at the Academy hail from numerous federal (USFS, USF&WS, NPS) and state (VDOF, DCR, Va. Dept. of Fire Programs, Maryland Forest Service) agencies as well as The Nature Conservancy, the Chesterfield County Fire Department, the North Garden FD, Rockingham Fire & Rescue, and Shenandoah Fire & Rescue. Firefighters from 5 states other than VA will be attending this year.

Sand Table exercise in the S 131 "Basic Firefighter"
While many of the courses are classroom based, several involve field work. These include: the chainsaw operations course, where participants learn how to properly fell trees during a wildfire, and the bulldozer/fireplow course, where participants operate these important pieces of heavy equipment over and through a variety of obstacles they will encounter in the woods. In addition to the obstacle course they work through during the day, “students” in this course also will attack and suppress - using only their bulldozer/fireplows - a real wildfire at night as part of the program.

The Tractor class is always a popular course.

The food at Longwood is always popular and in plenty of supply.

Check back for more posts during the academy next week.

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