APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – The rise of wildland fires across the country created a need for more specialized firefighters to stop those flames in their tracks and Fox Valley Technical College is the only place in Wisconsin to get that certification.
Jon Kellermann, a Wildland Fire and Natural Resource Instructor for the program says, “We have two programs for wildland fire. We have a technical diploma, which is a one-year program, and then we have an associate degree, which is a two-year program.”
On the first day of training, students dug a trench, which if there were a real wildfire, would prevent it from spreading and causing more damage.
Lucas Stabeneu, a current DNR employee in Natural Heritage Conservation and wildland fire student says, “When you’re out west out in the mountains where you can’t use machinery you have to use lines like this and actual manual labor.”
One wildland fire instructor explains how the fire season is getting longer every year, causing an even bigger need for their program.
Rachel Stute, a Mukwonago Land Management Intern for the Nature Conservancy and another student says, “With climate change and the pending threat of climate change we’re going to see more wild line fires throughout the country so it’s really important to put people through these trainings so they can be prepared.”
The program is male-dominated, but there were a few women there striving to be some of the few female firefighters nationwide.
Jade Besson, a wildland firefighting student says, “Honestly I haven’t found any, there’s no comparison between males and females in this field, you just have to do your job.”
All the students at the training say this kind of work is very labor-intensive but worth it in the end.
“It’s impressive how much physical labor there is going into this,” says Stabeneu.
“You just have to understand your mission behind it. Our mission is to prevent people from dying, save their property, save their livelihood and that kinda pushes you to do more,” adds Besson.