Under a cloudless sky, rookie wildland firefighters feverishly dug a fire line as a wall of flames approached.
The flames were fictitious, created with long lines of red spray paint in a field north of the Nampa Campus Academic Building at the College of Western Idaho (CWI). The exercise was part of Basic Fire School, held at the College each year before the fire season. The training sets a foundation for new firefighters who range in age from 18 to their mid-30s.
On Wednesday, 65 new recruits learned about radios, drip torches, and fire engines as they made their way through six training stations on the campus. The College is an ideal location for training with its exceptional facilities and more than 100 acres to practice.
“What makes CWI convenient for us, is that we can use indoor classrooms and we can also spend a large amount of the time outdoors,” said Gabe Carr, a squad leader with the Boise Bureau of Land Management’s Helitack crew.
“It gives us the flexibility to run a variety different lessons and exercises with the students,” he said.
Following the week-long training course, firefighters will work with crews this summer at the BLM, U.S. Forest Service, Idaho Department of Lands and contractors.
Grace Barnes, with workforce development at CWI, helps to organize the training and said it is a great way to introduce people to the College.
“I’ve had three firefighters ask about the Wildland Fire program offered through CWI this week,” Barnes said.
At the end of training, each person who passes the class, receives a certificate from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group and their name is placed in a national data base. Those firefighters are then recognized for their skills and eligible to work anywhere in the country.
CWI student Tyler Engebritson, 19, is excited about his new summer job.
“I’ve been a life guard for five years, so I thought I would try firefighting” said Engebritson, who is looking forward to the real-world experience he will get battling blazes across the region.