Fire Crew Offers Firefighting Certification Course
Sarah McQueen - Video by Dan Neckar -

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 certification.

This class is part of wildland fire science, a new major that will be implemented at UWSP this fall, and an option in resource management.

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 ecology.

“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.