Mon, 18 Jan 2016 11:00:00 CST — by: Callie Oldfield
Sewanee graduate Thomas Walters (C’15) returned from a summer of western wildfire fighting to assist with a wildland fire training course in early January. Sewanee hosted the second annual basic wildland fire training course (S-130/190) to train participants in wildland firefighting and fire safety. This course is standard training required before participating in a prescribed burn or wildland firefighting with many agencies and organizations, providing a leg-up in the job market for those going into the natural resource career field. This short course was a partnership between the Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability and the Department of Earth and Environmental Systems.
While the course was mostly filled with Sewanee students interested in natural resources or forestry, other participants included workers from the Arnold Air Force Base, the State of Tennessee, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Cherokee Hotshots, a highly trained fire suppression crew of the U.S. Forest Service, instructed the week-long course, which consisted of lectures, field demonstrations, and a work capacity test to determine strength and endurance. Participants “got their feet warm” early in the week with a small burn near Lake Cheston, and then put their skills to the test with a larger burn in the pine-dominated forest by the Equestrian Center known as “fairyland.”
Sewanee students are already benefiting from this training: Thomas Walters is currently a wildland firefighter at the Helena National Forest (Lincoln, MO). As a student, he prepared himself for this career by taking the wildland firefighting class last year and studying the effects of fire on plant populations as an Ecology and Biodiversity major. He was given the opportunity to assist Kevin Hiers, Director of Environmental Stewardship, with a controlled burn of Caicos Pine in the Turks and Caicos last spring. “This class and my time at Sewanee have prepared me to pursue my interest in wildland firefighting,” Thomas remarked.
Other Sewanee students plan to use the skills they have learned in the class on the Domain. Elizabeth Tilly (C’18) is working with Nate Wilson, the Domain Manager, on trail and cabin management. “Learning about how fire behaves in the wild and then getting to watch it in action in a controlled area was so awesome! Now that I've taken the fire class I'll also be able to do controlled burns around campus as part of Domain management,” she commented.