Minnesota Wildfire Academy returns after hiatus

[anvplayer video=”5114534″ station=”998130″]

The Minnesota Wildfire Academy is back, with hundreds of eager participants.

“It’s my third time up here at Fire Academy,” said participant Kevin Mortensen. “I took the basic firefighter class when I was a senior in high school because I was I guess my assumption was that, you know, smoke chasing could be a summer job for me. And with the length of the fire season, that year wasn’t the case, but I still enjoyed it.”

There are 350 participants this year in thirteen courses.

“They’re doing hand line work, drilling for hotspots on a fire ground. We have the chainsaw safety course,” said Incident Commander Mike Aultman. “We have incident commander classes. We have engine boss classes to name a few.”

After a participant goes through the basic firefighting class, they go to a local agency, such as the forest service or DNR, for experience. Those with experience can then be sent to California or other states that need an extra hand.

“I went out west in 2017,” said Morensen. “All my fire experience to that point had been in Minnesota, where we more or less have water disposal all the time. So digging line and throwing dirt on fire.”

Last year, it was Minnesota that needed the extra help.

“We had a number of pretty good fires in extremely dry conditions here last year, explained Aultman. “So we brought hand crews in from different states last year.”

With Minnesota out of drought conditions, the fire risk is lower this year.

“This season we’ve had a fairly wet spring so far, so we haven’t had a lot of fires, so it’s been good that way,” said Aultman. “That actually is very good for the fire community because last year they were we’re really put under a lot of pressures with the wildfires we did out here in Minnesota last year, for example, we didn’t send a lot of resources out West because we had such a bad condition here this year.”