Authored by Brannon Knight
On December 6-9, 2016, The Orianne Society, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy and The Longleaf Alliance hosted a Basic Wildland Firefighter Academy at the Altama Wildlife Management Area. The academy serves as the instructor-lead portion to meet The National Wildfire Coordinating Group’s standards for a Basic Firefighter Type 2. It is a crucial step for people interested in prescribed fire or wildfire in regards to qualifications. It is a requirement for all Orianne Society and other agency personnel to have this qualification in order to work on prescribed fires. It is also a requirement to pass an arduous or moderate “work capacity test,” commonly referred to as a pack test. The arduous pack test requires an individual to walk on level terrain with a weight vest weighing 45 pounds over three miles in 45 minutes. The moderate pack test requires an individual to walk on level terrain with a weight vest weighing 25 pounds over two miles in 30 minutes. Trainees must pass at least a moderate pack test to be able to work on prescribed fires in Georgia unless working for a federal agency. It is highly encouraged to complete the arduous test.
We cover a wide range of topics including radio use and protocols, hand tools, line construction, Incident Command System, maps and field orienteering, basic fire ecology, first aid, fire shelter deployment, and may other topics. Once all the topics are covered, the students get a chance to apply their knowledge through hands-on learning. We give them scenarios that require them to apply everything they have learned in a culminating event. It is during this event when usually everything starts coming together, makes sense and requires them to work together as a team. On the last day, the students conducted a training burn, and once again they engage in hands-on learning by carrying a drip torch and applying their newly-acquired skills to be a Wildland Firefighter. It also gives the students a chance to ask questions and to experiment with different ignition strategies in a safe, controlled environment.
This year we had a great group of students. I hope we can continue putting on these events in the future so we can continue to grow and expand the fire culture.