5th Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology and the 2nd International Wildland Fire Ecology and Fire Management Congress

Tuesday, 18 November 2003: 11:30 AM
Wildfire Training for Volunteer Fire Departments
Julie E. Shiyou-Woodard, South Alabama Regional Planning Commission, Mobile, AL
Forestry is the number one commercial product in the state of Alabama. Approximately 74% of the forest is privately owned. Arson and debris burning are the one and two causes of acres lost to wildfire in Alabama. Approximately 900 of the total 1,100 fire departments in Alabama are volunteer. The Alabama Forestry Commission and US Fish and Wildlife Service look to the local fire departments to assist on large wildfire incidents. Currently, the Alabama Wildland Fire Academy is offered once a year and geographically located in the center of the state. The three-year-old academy has been successful in attracting Federal and State firefighters but not volunteer fire departments for training in wildland firefighting. Factors thought to be effecting this low turn out rate are: volunteers have career responsibilities outside fire, therefore time away for training impacts their jobs and income; the distance traveled to the center of the state is time and cost prohibitive; and the focus of training in fire departments is structural fire fighting.

In an effort to better facilitate training for volunteer fire departments (and paid where feasible) a project was developed to provide training locally. This project is being implemented under a National Fire Plan grant from the US Department of Interior, US Fish and Wildlife Service. The area of concentration is in the vicinity of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge in Fort Morgan, Alabama and the Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Grand Bay, Alabama. The classes are offered after normal work hours in a weekday/weekend combination.

The project coordinator is responsible for securing instructors, approving and supplying student materials, securing classroom as well as field exercise locations, soliciting registrations, handling registrations, securing food and coordination with local fire departments for scheduling. The materials, site, instructor and equipment are supplied by the grant and a minor registration fee is collected to cover the cost of food and to encourage registrants to follow through to be in class.

The advantages of this method are that the training is brought to the fire departments after normal working hours as to not interfere with work and reduce the need to take annual leave. The class is offered locally to reduce travel cost. The registration fee is nominal.

This strategy has been successful in attracting volunteer fire fighters. There have been three basic wildland firefighter and fire behavior classes offered since January 2003. The classes were 97% full (70 slots offered/68 students in attendance) with a waiting list.

Supplementary URL: http://