Forest fires are a very real danger and the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Wildfire Training Academy held at WVU teaches people how to fight those fires, so they can better protect their communities.
The eighth annual training academy was bigger than ever with 250 fire fighters from more than eight states and 11 classes offered.
"We have people that have never been out on a fire before that learn the basic fire fighter, these are the people that are on the line, digging trenches and cutting down trees. We have some basic classes that deal with pumps and how to deal with pumps and chainsaws," said Sera Zegre, the organizer of the Mid-Atlantic Wildfire Training Academy. "Then we have more advanced classes as it goes down the line, how to deal with teams and more leadership classes."
Classes happen all over the Morgantown area. Fire fighters learned about portable pumps near Chestnut Ridge Park.
"Out west we don't have roads like this that leads to the fires," said William Cirone, from the New Jersey State Forest Fire Service. "Sometimes we have to carry the pumps in miles on our backs and find water sources. Trucks aren't readily available, so we'll use pumps to pump to the fires."
West Virginia is a perfect location for a portable pump class. The instructor says the lakes and swamps in this area are just like the ones in the Midwest when they're out there fighting those forest fires.
"Real muddy and nice dirty bottoms where the leaves come up and everything," Cirone said. "The students get a real practical experience of what they might expect when they go out west."
The weeklong academy has courses that teach how to hook up fire hydrants, drive fire engines and more.
The more advanced classes discussed how to take on leadership roles.
"We not only fight wildfire for a living, we need to train our people, we need to get them 'knowed up' on all wildfire and all hazards to get them out of state and in state assignments," said Larry Bickel from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. "Wildfires are evolving, everything is ever evolving, and we have to know how to be creative and go with that."
The fire fighters stay in the dorms at West Virginia University for the training academy.
Some of these fire fighters will ship out from their home states to the midwest, or where ever a fire begins, during the forest fire season.
"They come to the community, they deal with the issue, they provide the support, and then they leave," said Zegre. "So, we're training people that deal with things like that. It's a special group of people that have big hearts."