The University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point Fire Crew
and the Department of Natural Resources put on an outdoor training session last
weekend, offering participants the chance to earn basic firefighting
This class is part of wildland fire science, a new
major that will be implemented at UWSP this fall, and an option in resource
The course was a two-part class. One weekend consisted
of classroom work and the other of hands-on work learning how to use equipment
on actual fires. Participants completed all their training in teams, learning
how to work with each other to use the proper tools needed to fight fires.
“This is focused on wild land firefighting, which is
very different from structural,” said Erik Desotelle, the public information
officer for the Fire Crew. “In wild land firefighting, you have to move light,
you have to be able to move quickly, and you have to cover large areas of land.
Our techniques are focused on containing and controlling fires rather than
putting them out.”
One of the goals of the Fire Crew is to keep costs as
low as possible in order to make the class affordable to more people. The fee
for the course was $125 per student, which is lower than typical costs for
basic firefighting certification.
“Our goal is to get as many people trained as possible,
not to make a lot of profit,” Desotelle said.
The training session is run entirely by the UWSP Fire
Crew and attracts participants not only from UWSP but also from UW-River Falls,
as well as many not associated with a university who wish to become certified.
It takes about 35 people to run the class and involves a lot of teamwork from
the students who put it on. The class is also offered for college credits in
the fall to UWSP students.
“I work on a refuge at home, and this way I can go out
on their prescribed burns. It’s another resume booster, and it is something
that is important to have,” said Emilia Kenow, participant of the class and a
student at UWSP.
The outdoor session was made up of four different
stations. One station taught students how to use various fire vehicles and also
how to systematically search for and extinguish spot fires. Another station
taught how to use pumps and hoses used in firefighting. There was also a
station dedicated to fireline control, where students worked in teams with hand
tools to dig down to mineral soil, effectively creating a line that would help
stop a fire. The fourth station had live burn piles, which students had to
break apart and extinguish.
“I think this is probably the most fun that anyone has
in the course, but it is definitely worth it to get out here and practice all
the techniques that we use,” Desotelle said.
The courses in the wildland fire science major will
focus on wildland firefighting, fire management, fire use, fire policy and fire
“We are building upon what has been in place,” said Ron
Masters, an associate professor of wildland fire science and advisor to the
Fire Crew. “The basic fire operations that these students are getting today are
part of the course.”
Masters stated the Fire Crew is one of the most active
student groups on campus and that he is amazed by how motivated they are to
take part in everything.