PONCA, Neb. (KCAU) – Wildfires are popping up across the U.S. at alarming rates. Just this year alone there have been over 40 thousand wildfires burning over four million acres of land. The Eastern Nebraska Wildland Fire Academy is helping to prepare local men and women for these natural disasters.
‘Training everybody so they know how to attack a wildfire safely and understand why we do it is the main take away we want to get out here for these people,” said Jorden Smith, a Wildland Urban Interface Forester with the University of Nebraska.
Knowledge is key when helping battle a wildfire. That’s why the Nebraska Wildland Fire Academy is providing the necessary training for area firefighters, emergency managers, and National Guard members who could be called upon to battle a blaze.
“Our 131-90, which is your basic red card class, that is a four-day class. So, that takes someone who has no firefighting experience and gets them trained up to the point where they are able to go out on fire line and wildfire and know what’s going on,” said Smith.
The 75 participants didn’t just spend time in the classroom. They also participated in chainsaw classes learning how to cut down trees in order to slow a fire.
“More comfort level with the saws and then also being able to evaluate the trees and look at our ability and comfort level to take those trees down in the future,” said Fire Chief of Battalion, Eric Barnum.
Officials say there is a common misconception that wildfires don’t occur in the Midwest. However, rural areas consisting of cornfields and grasslands are susceptible to natural disasters.
“We have areas that we consider wildland-urban interface where the wildland fire could come in and move through areas, especially on the edges of our community, there is still a lot of timber and grasslands,” said Barnum.
At the end of the four-day training event, everyone is able to step up when needed to help assist not only their Midwestern communities, but also those coast to coast.
“I would feel honored to be able to be asked to respond out there and our ability to help in any way our qualifications would allow,” said Barnum.
“They understand hey there’s a fire going we need X and we need Y and then they can register they need this and this and we can go help attack this fire,” said Smith.
Those who attended the four-day training earned a red card certification to fight wildfires.