Students that took the RE 295 Wildland Firefighter advanced class last winter learned more than just the average fire management lessons; they experienced fighting fires firsthand.
An informational meeting discussing RE 295 for next semester will be held at 1 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 7, in room 242 of the PEIF.
Jeff Noble, professor of RE 295 and forest fire officer for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said the class is helpful for students who want to pursue a career in wildland fire management.
“With this class students are able to learn more about using hand tools to fight fires, such as ones that break out in more remote places in the U.P.,” Noble said.
The course was started three years ago because students weren’t getting any real field experience with fighting fires or using some of the tools in this field, Noble said.
During spring break last year, 15 Northern students traveled to Florida to practice fighting fires with the help of fire crews from the Florida Division of Forestry.
The trip during this winter semester will cost about $500, which includes airfare, expenses in Florida and personal protective gear, Noble said. Also, students are required to have taken RE277 Introduction to Wildland Fire, before enrolling in RE295.
The first day in Florida students learned a lot, Noble said.
“The first day is refresher training, field experience, hands-on with the tools, working with the pumps, with the engines, with the hoses, getting their hands on the actual equipment,” he said.
At the St. Sebastian State Preserve in Florida near Orlando, students were instructed on safety precautions and weather restraints.
Depending on the weather and where they were needed, students went to various places in Florida where they needed help doing prescribed burns, Noble said.
Prescribed burns are fires deliberately set by fire managers to either burn off old grass to get new grass to sprout in an area, remove invasive species by burning them out or to reduce the danger of a naturally occurring wildland fire by burning out fuels ahead of time so there’s less fuel for the fire to run through in the future, Noble said.
While in Florida last winter students, got to see a 1,000 acre wildfire. The fire started out as less than one acre and burned about 1,200-1,500 acres, said Joshua Brinkman, a former Northern student who took RE 295 and went to Florida last year.
“It was a blast, kind of just takes your breath away to see the flames. We saw well over 100-foot flames, and pillars of smoke. You couldn’t see: it was kind of like Bambi, animals running everywhere,” Brinkman said.
Tony Histed, a junior outdoor recreation leadership and management major, took last semester’s class and advised future students in the course to be ready for a lot of hands-on experience.
“It was very intense, a lot of fun . the guys down there really loved us, they were very happy with us, so happy that they want us to send two crews down this year instead of one,” Histed said.
Nicole DeYoung, a junior outdoor recreation leadership and management major, took the class last semester as well and said that overall, the trip to Florida was a great learning experience.
“It was probably the best week of my life,” DeYoung said.