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Delaware Forest Service seeks trainees for wildfire classes

Date Posted: Thursday, January 28th, 2016
Categories:  Department of Agriculture Forest Service Kent County New Castle County Sussex County

From left, Chris Sturm of Penna., Jennifer DeCarlo of Felton, Guy Cooper of Millville, Kyle Hoyd of Felton, Scott Veasey of Millsboro, and Todd Gsell of Townsend were part of the Delaware Forest Service wildfire crew that battled a 36,500-acre blaze in California last summer. The DFS is looking for trainees to join its fire program this year.

From left, Chris Sturm of Penna., Jennifer DeCarlo of Felton, Guy Cooper of Millville, Kyle Hoyd of Felton, Scott Veasey of Millsboro, and Todd Gsell of Townsend were part of the Delaware Forest Service wildfire crew that battled a 36,500-acre blaze in California last summer. The DFS is looking for trainees to join its fire program this year. No experience is needed but applicants must register by February 17, 2016.

The Delaware Forest Service (DFS) is seeking trainees for its annual wildfire training classes at the Delaware State Fire School. No previous experience needed. Applicants should be over 18 years old, physically fit, motivated, and willing to travel for at least two weeks (usually during the summer) on out-of-state fire assignments.  Interested candidates should contact Kyle Hoyd, DFS Wildland Fire Program Administrator, at (302) 698-4548 or kyle.hoyd@state.de.us  to register.  The deadline to sign up is February 17, 2016.

All trainees must complete the following courses on two separate weekend sessions:
1)  S-190: Intro to Wildfire Behavior – March 5 and 6 (Sat. and Sun.) – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day
2)  S-130: Basic Wildland Firefighting – March 19 and 20 (Sat. and Sun.) – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day

Courses are at the Delaware State Fire School, 1461 Chestnut Grove Road, Dover, DE 19904 (302) 739-4773.  

Nikki Testa of Wilmington

Nikki Testa of Wilmington is a veteran wildland firefighter who was part of the Delaware Forest Service crew that battled the 36,500-acre Fork Complex Fire in northern California in 2015.

Both S-190 and S-130 are required for prospective firefighters to attain “red-card” certification from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG), the lead agency for wildfire training in the United States.   In addition to the basic coursework, candidates must also complete an arduous “work capacity” or “pack test,” which involves carrying a 45-pound pack over a three-mile course in less than 45 minutes.

The capstone of the Delaware Forest Service’s annual wildfire training is its 21st annual “Fire Camp,” held this year on Saturday, April 23, 2016 at Redden State Forest in Georgetown, Sussex County. The intensive one-day seminar includes hands-on training across a range of wildland firefighting tools and strategies, culminating in a “live-burn” exercise designed to simulate conditions on an actual fire assignment. Last year’s camp was featured on the WHYY-TV news program “First.”

In 2015, Delaware mobilized a 20-person crew to the National Interagency Fire Center that battled the 36,500-acre Fork Complex Fire  in Northern California. The Delaware crew served at a time of intense need for firefighting resources, coinciding with the period when the National Preparedness Level hit a maximum of 5 on a 5-point scale.

Delaware has been mobilizing crews to serve on out-of-state assignment since the late-1990s. The crews have battled fires in Alaska, California, Georgia, Idaho, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, South Dakota, Nebraska, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.

The First State has also sent personnel to aid in national or regional emergencies, such as hurricane relief efforts in Florida in 2004 and New York in 2011.

The Delaware Forest Service's Erich Burkentine leads trainees through the "live burn" exercise at the 2015 "Fire Camp" at Redden State Forest. This year's camp will take place on April 23, 2016.

The Delaware Forest Service’s Erich Burkentine leads trainees through the “live burn” exercise at the 2015 “Fire Camp” at Redden State Forest. This year’s camp will take place on April 23, 2016.

Trained and dispatched by the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, wildfire crews are comprised of men and women of varying ages and backgrounds who represent a mix of public agencies, nonprofit groups, volunteer fire companies, and private citizens—all with an interest in firefighting and a desire to help their communities.

Despite its small size, Delaware has earned an outstanding reputation on the national firefighting scene and has been honored by Governor Markell and state legislators for the crew’s efforts.

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