Practicing to fight wildfires by day and camping on-site during chilly nights, 37 statewide recruits of the Nevada Division of Forestry have been training in Washoe Valley since Sunday to become wildland firefighters at Wildland Rookie Academy.
The annual training was held at the NDF Eastlake station this year, with Thursday being the most vital class of all training: a simulation of a Type 3 wildland fire incident of 40 acres.
Type 3 consists of extended initial attack on wildland fires, several task forces or strike teams, command positions, and an operational period of 12 hours.
The hands-on scenario gave rookies a chance to experience an actual fire camp scenario implementation of the Incident Command System, such as working with a helitack crew, line crews, and a base camp.
In addition to Nevada’s Wildfire Awareness Month, Incident Commander Marcus Lesbo said seasonal fire response work is between June and September, as this month prepares rookies to learn the basics.
“These classes help them perform the job safely,” he said. “We tie it in with the simulation and test them how to extinguish it safely while under pressure.”
Last year’s academy not only practiced for qualification, but also tested skills on a real fire, as a red flag warning was issued by the National Weather Service.
Although Thursday’s weather was cool, windy, and sunny, the weather still provided a good example of what students would possibly face in a real wildfire, said Acting State Forester Kacey KC.
“We have been to three or four fire starts this season,” she said. “With the high rain and snow events we’ve had, we’re looking at the most devastating fire year, traditionally speaking.”
Although every year is devastating, she said, fires are more at risk later this year due to the timber pack on the mountains and moisture on the valley floor.
Meanwhile in Southern Nevada, the area is undergoing preparations as the weather is warm and dry.
Few of the rookies are originally from Las Vegas but stationed throughout the state. Vegas native and Type 2 rookie Arden Heki is stationed in Elko but is enjoying the learning experience in the northern region.
“There are more cold fronts and storms,” he said. “The elevation isn’t bad but I’m learning a lot just by being in this environment.”
“It’s extremely different,” said Tyler Lowry, Type 1 firefighter also from Vegas and stationed in Elko. “That’s why communication is one of the biggest keys to safety in these situations.”
Seasonal firefighters and engines, inmate crews, and helitak crews also were among the training.
The academy includes classroom exercises, covering fire weather, fire behavior, fireline construction, hand tool use, fire shelter deployment, pump/engine operations and physical training.