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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Virginia's Wildfire Academy 2011 day 1

The 11th annual Virginia Interagency Wildfire Training Academy is off to a good start. Today was a day to set up the Incident Command Center, unpack the numerous trucks with supplies and prepare for the registration of about 350 students this year.

The conference staff at Longwood University was very helpful and the day went fairly smooth, HOT but smooth. This academy could not happen without the support of MANY agencies along with the University. I will in an upcoming post identify all the agencies that have either provided instructors or will have students attending.

Many things have changes from the days that we fought fire with very basic tools and equipment, one thing that has remained the same is the “fire”, its still very dangerous work and very demanding physically and mentally. It takes a tough and dedicated person to do what it is we do.
I will try and post pictures and information from the academy each day, please check back.
For now I will leave you with a listing of the courses offered to the 350 students at the academt this year.

Course Descriptions
I-200 ICS for Single Resources and Initial Action IncidentsThis course introduces students to the principles of the Incident Command System (ICS) associated with incident related performance.

I-300 ICS for Expanding Incidents This course provides description and detail of the Incident Command System (ICS) organization and operations in supervising roles on expanding or Type 3 incidents.

S-130 Firefighter Training / S-190 Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior
L-180 Human Factors on the Fire line / I-100 ICS Orientation
This course trains firefighters in basic Wildland firefighting skills. Safety, tactics, equipment use and operation prepares the firefighter for fire suppression work. Training in fire behavior factors will aid in the safe and effective control of Wildland fires. Basic knowledge of the structure and concept of the ICS system will be covered along with human factors on the fire line. This course will be presented in a distance learning environment as approximately 24 hours of training will be completed prior to the academy. The remaining field portion of the training will be completed at the academy along with the final examination.

S-131 Advanced Firefighter Training This course meets the training needs of both Advanced Firefighter/Squad Boss (FF1) and Incident Commander Type 5 (ICT5). The course is designed to be interactive in nature. It contains several tactical decision games designed to facilitate learning the objectives and class discussion. Topics include: fireline reference materials, communications, and tactical decision making.

S-133 Look Up, Look Down, Look AroundThis course examines the wildland fire environment and the indicators firefighters should observe on the fire line in order to anticipate fire behavior.

S-200 Initial Attack Incident CommanderDesigned to provide the initial attack Incident Commander with training in Readiness and Mobilization, Size-up, planning and ordering, deployment and containment, administrative duties and post fire evaluation.

S-212 Wildfire Power Saws Provides students’ skill training for work as a power saw operator on wildland fires. This course covers the duties and responsibilities of the power saw operator, parts and maintenance of the power saw, application and safety.
S-215 Fire Operations in the Urban Interface                                                                                    The course is required training for initial attack incident commanders and strike team leaders. This course is designed to assist structure and wildland firefighters to make tactical decisions when confronting wildland fire that threatens life, property, and improvements in the wildland/urban interface. Instructional units include: interface awareness, size up, initial strategy and incident action plan, structure triage, structure protection tactics, incident action plan assessment and update, follow-up and public relations, and firefighter safety in the interface.

S-230 Single Resource Boss This is a classroom course designed to produce student proficiency in the performance of duties associated with the single resource boss position from initial dispatch through demobilization to the home unit. Topics include: operational leadership, preparation and mobilization, assignment preparation, risk management, entrapment avoidance, safety and tactics, offline duties, demobilization, and post incident responsibilities.

S-290 Intermediate Wildland Fire BehaviorThis course is designed to instruct prospective fireline supervisors in wildland fire behavior for effective and safe fire management operations. The course provides a detailed treatment of fuels, weather, topography and their effects on fire behavior.

Tractor Plow Operation                                                                                                                       This course was created, designed and developed by the Virginia Department of Forestry and instructs the student in the safe and effective operation of tractor plow units. On the ground instruction is utilized along with some indoor instruction on tactics and safety. This course is designed for operators who have some level of experience operating a tractor plow on fire assignments.

Thanks for checking by and please come back for pictures and information from day 2 tomorrow night.

Smokey is sure proud of all these women and men who take the time to train to be the best they can be and to put their lives in danger when fighting a wildfire.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

As we go into this Memorial Day holiday weekend lets us NEVER forget the sacrifices of our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends and all family who have given their life protecting ours.
In a small way of saying thanks please use or distribute the coloring sheet below.

Also please know that on June 4th Virginia will honor its fallen firefighters from the previous year. Below is info taken from a brochure that will be given to all firefighters’ attending the wildland fire academy next week.  I hope you enjoy the poem that I wrote using a poem a Canadian Firefighter wrote to honor the victims’ of 9/11 several years ago as a guide.

The annual Virginia Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, June 4, 2011 at the Richmond Inter­national Raceway Complex’s Old Dominion Building.
If you cannot be there physically you can honor those who gave their life in the line of duty with a moment of silence.

Seven firefighters who died in the line of duty or have been rec­ognized by the Virginia Line of Duty Act in the last year will be honored for their bravery and dedicated public service.

The fallen firefighters to be honored are Assistant Chief Carl Persing of Dale City Volunteer Fire Department and City of Manassas, Firefighter Timothy Pigg of Amherst Vol­unteer Fire Department, Chief Posey Dillon of Rocky Mount Volunteer Fire Department, Firefighter William “Danny” Altice of Rocky Mount Volunteer Fire Department, Fire­fighter William Harold “Hal” Clark of Atlantic Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company, William Obenchain Jr. of Roanoke Fire-EMS, and Zygimantas Zalys of City of Manassas. In addition to honoring recently fallen firefighters, the memo­rial service will honor the memory of all Virginia firefighters who have given their lives in the service of the Common­wealth of Virginia.

"The Fallen!"
In the battle against the beastly fire...
Standing together, ready to fight!
To help the victims of every incident,
committed to service, by day and by night.

These are the courageous Firefighters,
In their cities and towns of Virginia land.
They stand together as really true friends,
Routinely they're all working hand in hand.

Everyone of them looks after the other,
They know no borders...!
Ready to help in their unselfish way,
Without fear, they follow their orders!
Seven of them gave their lives in Virginia,
 two thousand and ten...!
Firefighters everywhere will remember them,
And their feelings of loss will never be gone.

By the way, live streaming the service this year will be on the web.  There is a link at the bottom of our home page, that will be active the day of the service. 

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.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What Forest Fire Events happened in 1950?

I was looking for some wildfire news for my blog today and came across a story about a huge fire in Alberta Canada in 1950. So I got thinking what else happened in 1950 besides this fire in Canada. It didn’t take much thinking because 1950 was the year Smokey Bear was rescued from that large forest fire in Capitan Mountains of New Mexico. Many of you probably already know the Smokey Bear Story if not check out to learn more about Smokey and the longest and most successful ad campaign in American history.

Here is a brief introduction to the story of that 1950 Canadian blaze. More info can be found at the noted links at the end of the blog. I hope you enjoy.

September 24, 1950

A mysterious day when the sky became dark as night during the middle of the day. The explanation by local officials was that a forest fire had occurred in Canada - but none were ever recorded on this date for Eastern Canada. Moreover, there was no smoke involved in the darkened skies as there has been in all other forest fires around the country since that date. Most people at the time thought that the world was coming to an end and that it was a sign from the heavens. Was it actually a Western Canadian forest fire? Or, was it really a 'sign' that marked the 'end of times', as man has begun to play God.

Norman P. Carlson puts a face on the dark day, which supports the 'forest fire in Canada' reason for black Sunday. Read his detailed account of the
Canadian forest fire here.

These may or may not have been some of the firefighters in Canada at the time but they are circa 1950 forest fire fighters. They did not have all the tools of the trade that we rely upon today but they had the same "toughness" and dedication that are found in every firefighter today and they paved the way for our modern wildfire suppression efforts today.
I want to than everyone of them and everyone of you today who put your life on the line and put your personal life on hold when the call comes to protect lives, homes, property and the natural resources.



Monday, May 16, 2011

Lauren Suddeth and Smokey Bear at the Lookouts Game

An Idol meets an Idol.
Thanks to my friends with the TN Div of Forestry for most of these great pictures.
The Tennessee Division of Forestry and the Cherokee National Forest teamed up with the Chattanooga Lookouts (the AA affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers) for Wildfire Prevention Night in southeast Tennessee

Smokey was already positioned behind home plate awaiting his opportunity to make his way to the pitchers mound to throw out a ceremonial first pitch before the game when the crowd suddenly came to life.

 Miss Suddeth's limo and entourage had arrived outside the stadium.  Once security was in place, she was escorted into the stadium by Chattanooga police and then walked by herself down the side of the field directly into the arms of Smokey Bear.  

As you might expect, the crowd went wild, the media had a field day and it was a great night for everyone including those of us working in fire prevention.
I suspect that this event may get a few seconds of national attention on Wednesday night when the program airs once again.

If any of you who are receiving this email have the ability to record the program at home, I would certainly enjoy receiving a copy of the segment of the program featuring Miss Suddeth's appearance at the stadium with Smokey.

Saturdays appearance by Smokey and our prevention team is not the only exposure for this year.  Throughout the season we have a full page ad in each game program plus prevention messages in place to be broadcast over one or more local radio stations and over the PA system during games.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Virginia Firefighters help in NC,TX and GA

Virginia has personnel assisting in the following locations.

West Texas I.A.
Georgia- Honey Prairie Fire
North Carolina- Pains Bay Fire
Texas- Trans Pecos Complex
Georgia-Honey Prairie Fire

Some pictures and fire info from those areas.......

The plumes of smoke visible in this image of the Honey Prairie Fire

The image was captured on May 8, 2011, by the Landsat-7 satellite, as fire managers in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge allowed the Honey Prairie Fire to burn. The work of firefighters was to ensure that the fire did not take any structures and to keep it bounded within the Wildlife Refuge.

The fire was started by lightning on April 28, and by May 8 approximately 61,822 acres had burned.


Pains Bay fire now 50 percent contained. 
Firefighters continue burn-out operations to secure containment lines along the northeast corner of the Pains Bay wildfire that began on May 5. The fire is on mainland Dare County in Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and on the Dare County Bombing Range.


NEAR MARATHON - Fire crews are working overtime to snuff out some big blazes near Marathon.
The Schwartz Fire has now burned more than 73,000 acres.
Fire crews managed to keep the flames from jumping Highway 90, which remains closed between Marathon and Sanderson, due to smoke.
Meanwhile, the Iron Mountain Fire has burned close to 82,000 acres.
Both are 40 percent contained.
The fires in Texas continue to challenge firefighters. Two fires east of Alpine, Texas have each burned over 70,000 acres.
Iron Mountain fire. This fire 9 miles north of Marathon has burned 82,000 acres and has spread to the east beyond the perimeter shown in the map above to highway 385 north of the Pecos/Brewster county line. The fire has grown significantly over the last two days. It is being managed by the North Carolina Type 2 Incident Management Team (Hildreth/ Howard).
Schwartz fire. This fire 16 miles east of Marathon has also grown by tens of thousands of acres over the last two days. On Thursday it made a run all the way south to Highway 90, but successful efforts by firefighters kept the fire from crossing. Thursday night crews began burning out along the highway, initiating an effort to secure the fire’s southern perimeter.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Home Of Smokey Bear Closes Wildfires Ravage the Area

Dry New Mexico sees 27 wildfires in 4 days
No significant rain expected until July — and 'we're starting to add lightning to the mix'
The first three months of the year marked the second-driest start to any year on record in New Mexico. And more than 400 in that time have scorched more than 490 square miles. A handful of the fires so far this year were started by lightning, but most have been human-caused.

Officials plan to close Lincoln National Forest in southeastern New Mexico on Thursday. At least two other national forests have imposed various stages of fire restrictions, and the New Mexico State Forestry Division has enacted restrictions across all but parts of four northern counties.
The LNF closure order, to be signed by Forest Supervisor Robert Trujillo will go into effect, 8:00 a.m., May 12, 2011. For more information about the Fire Closure Order or the Lincoln National Forest, please contact the Supervisor's Office at (575) 434-7200, or one of the following District Offices: Smokey Bear Ranger District - (575) 257-4095, Sacramento Ranger District - (575) 682-2551, and Carlsbad Ranger District - (575) 885-4181.

Adult Smokey Bear 1976Baby Smokey Bear 1950

Reminiscent of the conditions almost 61 years to the day when wildfires (then we called them Forest Fires) ravaged the SW including parts of New Mexico and on the very Forest  that was the original home of Smokey Bear, fires once again are impacting the area.
Some of these fires are caused by lightning but many, way to many, are human caused just like the Capitan Gap Fire in 1950. Smokey Bear and his friends have spent many many years and thousands and thousands of hours educating folks about the dangers of wildfires and what we can do to prevent them. So why you might say are we still having so many wildfires. Mostly because of carelessness and people just not realizing just how much the drought has created such dangerous conditions.
So we all can GET YOUR SMOKEY ON ( and not only do OUR part and not let a wildfire start but spread the word, Smokey’s Words, ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT WILDFIRES.

Here is a bit of Smokey's Story to get you started ......

It is believed that on May 4, 1950, a carelessly discarded cigarette butt started the Los Tablos blaze in the Lincoln National Forest . On May 6, a second fire, known as the Capitan Gap fire, which was also man-caused, started in the same general area. Together these fires destroyed 17,000 acres of forest and grasslands. The monetary loss to private properties was great, but the loss to the wildlife and environment was even greater.
On May 8, a 70 mile per hour wind made it impossible to control the blaze. It was on this day that nineteen men were trapped in a rockslide while the holocaust raged around and passed them. They were rescued without any fatalities, but later expressed the opinion that they knew "just how a slice of toast feels."

These are not the only wildfires burningSmokey needs your help all accross the Nation especially where it is dry, real dry.

Wildfire grows 10,000 acres a day!!!!

Honey Prairie Fire has burned 90,990 acres and crossed into Florida

About 50 residents near Baxter community warned of possible evacuations.

For more information on the refuge and the fire, call (912) 496-7836 or go to

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wildfires Continue to burn in several states / Historic Weather

As wildfires burn on and hundeds if not thousands of firefighters respond not all their safey issues are fire related.
Blaze at North Carolina wildlife refuge burns 20,000 acres

Dry thunderstorms spark more fires in West Texas

Okefenokee fire nears 72,000 acres as it burns toward Florida

Wildfires prompt evacuations in 2 New Mexico communities

Historic month for wild weather in US


May 10, 2011 - 4:27PM  AP
US government meteorologists say April was a historic month for wild weather in the US, and it was not just the killer tornado outbreak that set records.
April included an odd mix of downpours, droughts and wildfires.
Six states - Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia - set records for the wettest April since 1895.
The US also had the most hectares burnt by wildfire for April since 2000.
Add to a record 305 tornadoes from April 25-28, which killed at least 309 people and the most tornadoes ever for all of April: 1875.
US scientists also looked for the fingerprints of global warming and La Nina on last month's deadly tornadoes, but could find no evidence to blame those often-cited weather phenomena.
Meanwhile, Texas and parts of several surrounding states are suffering through a drought nearly as punishing as some of the world's driest deserts, with much of the nation focused on a spring marked by historic floods and deadly tornadoes.
Some parts of Texas have not had any significant precipitation since August.
Bayous, cattle ponds and farm fields are drying up, and residents are living under constant threat of wildfires, which have already burnt across thousands of square kilometres.
Grass is so dry it crunches underfoot in many places and some ranchers are culling their herds to avoid paying supplemental feed costs.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Smokey goes to great heights to help prevent wildfire HOWEVER wildfires are still occuring.

Smokey was part of the crew that took off earlier today.

I dont know for sure but they went really high and traveled really fast and might have goyyen a bit wet when they landed.

Worst may be over for Texas wildfires

After Texas' driest spell on record, calmer and wetter weather is helping crews get the upper hand on raging wildfires.


Warnings of high winds and wildfires issued for Las Vegas Valley

Series of Southern California brush fires prompt warnings

Eastern NC Wildfire: "More Active than anticipated."

Lets all promis to do all we can to help Smokey and the firefighters all accross this great nation.