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Wildland Fire Training in Southwest Alaska a Success!

Nov. 3, 2009

(Bethel, AK)- In mid-October, students from villages located along the Kuskokwim River converged in Bethel to participate in wildland firefighter training.  The student group included residents from Tuluksak and Kalskag, plus members of the Bethel and Bristol Bay fire departments. The success of the experience, which resulted in 16 out of 18 students passing the training, was the result of interagency coordination and student enthusiasm.

Division of Forestry personnel traveled to Bethel to teach the two primary courses that are required to become qualified basic firefighters. Additional interagency cooperation for the funding and logistics was of utmost importance due to the location. Support for the training was provided by the Alaska Division of Forestry, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Association of Village Council Presidents. 

Out of an initial eighteen students who participated in the course, fifteen graduated with “Red Card” qualifications for the first time (and the ability to join Alaska’s wildland firefighting community); one already qualified student was made current in their training; and two students were unable to complete the course.

Fire crews from rural communities in Alaska provide a valuable workforce for statewide firefighting operations. The crews also provide support when needed to national firefighting efforts. However, closest to home, individual firefighters and crew members are an extremely important resource to their local area. Agency fire personnel may not always be able to respond as quickly as needed to fires that start in and around rural communities. Agencies work to equip and train personnel in villages to respond to rural emergency wildland fire response needs.  The recent training is an example of how multiple agencies and people can come together in southwest Alaska to provide greater independence and local accountability in regards to wildfire protection, vocational training, and educational opportunities.

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