In the past year, 11 people have died in wildfires nationwide. Not to mention in November alone more than 9.2 million acres of forest, brushland and grassland was lost. With wildfires spreading fast and furious, the demand for trained fire crews is higher than ever. NowUW-Stevens Point is stepping up to meet that need with a wildland fire crew certification class.
"I never actually thought that I would be out here doing this type of thing," UW-River Falls student Danielle Peterson said. "But after going through the first two classes and learning about the different experiences you get and also what you're doing, it was perfect. It was amazing."
Peterson and 20 of her classmates made the trip west to UW-Stevens Point this Saturday to get certified as Basic Wildland Firefighters.
"We actually get to burn and also learning basically how to be out in the field and actually fight a fire," Peterson described the training.
"They're working on mopping up and putting out fires that they would come across in a wild environment," UWSP Fire Crew Public Information Officer Erik Desotelle elaborated.
The UW-Stevens Point training included several different stations where students learned how to use water pumps, put out brush fires, fight fires around vehicles and locate hot spots.
"It is controlled, as you say, so it's not quite up to par with the real world situation. It's not going to be as crazy," Desotelle explained. "But it's still good that the students get to come out here and practice their techniques before they get to do work with the DNR or out West for any hand crews out there."
"They work with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on fires locally. These are their summer jobs. They go out West all summer and do the work. So if you see fires on the news, there's a chance there's a Pointer there with them," Associate Dean for Academic Affairs for the College of Natural Resources at UW-Stevens Point said.
Desotelle adds, "They also do work for local land owners where we do prescribed fires that work to restore a habitat or modify landscapes so that it's more conducive to particular wildlife or to remove invasive species."
"It may be scary and it may be a little bit intimidating, but certainly, if it's something you want to try, at least try it," Peterson advised.
The UW-Stevens Point Fire Crew teamed up with the Wisconsin DNR to host Saturday's training. It took students 40 hours total to receive their certification. In fall, UWSP will become the only university in the Midwest to offer an undergraduate wildland fire science program.
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