Minnesota Wildfire Academy kicks off

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Over 400 student-firefighters will undergo training from everything from tactics and logistics, to fighting active wildfires at Itasca Community College this week.

“We have students that are joining us today that will be entering into their wildland firefighting career profession,” said Leanne Langeberg, Public Information Officer with Minnesota’s DNR. “They learn about the dynamics of fighting fire. They will go out and practice skills within that course. So learning about pumps, learning about the hand tools that they’ll be using, what it means to grid and really be engaged as a firefighter on the ground.”

Students attending courses at this year’s academy include those who are interested in a career in wildland firefighting or conservation and current professionals.

“I am an assistant area wildlife manager based out of Carlsbad, Minnesota,” said Hayley Larson. “Which is our furthest northwest wildlife office. I’m taking the basic air ops course right now, kind of just going over some of risk mitigation, risk management aircraft types, their capabilities, their limitations, and how to communicate with them on the ground. I really got started with natural resources and just kind of a love of the land and the waters. I’ve always had a draw to aviation as well. I got my commercial pilot’s license when I was 21 years old.”

Firefighting has historically been a male-dominated field, but Larson said things are changing.

“Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there,” said Larson. “You know, it’s definitely a male dominated field, but I think we’re seeing a shift. I’m constantly seeing more and more women at the air tanker bases, at the helo bases, at fire camp, on prescribed fires. Don’t sell yourself short. You are capable of so much more than you think you are. And there’s definitely a growth in diversity. And if you want to be a part of that, go for it.”