The 76th annual Summer Fire School/Midwest Wildfire Training Academy wrapped just last Sunday. Over a thousand participants from as far away as California and Maine came to Jefferson City to either teach or attend one of the more than fifty courses offered.
Several new courses added to the schedule reflected the diversity of roles required by today’s firefighters. Large Animal Rescue brought veterinarians to Fire School for the first time and filled the course to capacity. Events around the country over the last few years have raised awareness of the need for training to work with large animals involved in disaster situations. The lead instructor was a Veterinarian and the Chief of the Versailles Rural Fire Department. The instructors brought first hand knowledge and experience to the class about the personality and physical differences between large animals. Understanding personality, physiology and techniques are critical to a safe and successful animal rescue operation.
Fireline Leadership, a new course offered through the Midwest Wildfire Training Academy, taught participants how to develop and maintain crew cohesion in a rapidly changing, high-stress wildfire situation. It increased students’ understanding of human behavior and provided motivation and leadership tools for wildfire situations. It also challenged them to examine their role as a leader and identify their strengths and weaknesses. This contracted class has been delivered internationally by the cadre of instructors.
Self-survival was the focus of Advanced SCBA Survival Training and Saving Ourselves. Both of these new classes taught firefighters specialized rescue and survival skills. The Live Fire Flashover Training Simulator, a popular class in the past, was offered again. Every year firefighters around the country are caught in the rapidly deteriorating fire conditions of a flashover. Through classroom instruction and the simulator students learned how to recognize the conditions leading to a flashover and developed an appreciation for the limits of their protective gear.
High temperatures and turnout gear created stressful physical conditions for the participants. The medical group did a great job with firefighter rehab; we’re proud to say we had no injuries or heat-related issues during the week.
The fact that the Fire School / Wildfire Academy is in its' 76th year is a tribute to the dedicated staff that help organize it, the instructors that devote their time to teaching the many courses, and to the fire departments across Missouri and the rest of the country who participate year after year. Thank you to the University of Missouri - Extension for their continued support. Thank you to all of you for your continued professionalism and dedication to improving your skills and abilities. I look forward to the 77th Fire School in 2009. Hope to see you there!