Training volunteers to fight wildland fires

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RENO, Nev. - (KOLO) More than a hundred wildfires have sparked in Northern Nevada so far this season. It's a year where wildland firefighters are in high demand and a lot of residents have been asking what they can do to help. If you're interested in becoming a wildland firefighter, a good place to start is a local volunteer department. They train to federal standards.

"We follow NWCG guidelines and we're actually above and beyond that in certain areas," said Capt. Scott Stephenson of Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District. "Brand-new firefighters coming in the door have so many hours of training they have to do before they can even be issued their gear and actually be on a wildland fire, doing training."

Applicants must pass a physical and a background check to start training.

"There's field work and a lot of classroom stuff," Stephenson said. "Even the career firefighters who have been doing this as long as I have - 30 years - we have to go through what's called an RT-130 every single wildland season before we're able to go out and get our red card issued so we can go out on the federal fires."

Being on the fireline requires a certain level of fitness.

"You have to be in pretty good shape; you have to have the stamina to keep up and stay hydrated and dig line all day or put in hose lays, that kind of thing," Stephenson said. "It's long hours, steep terrain and very hot conditions."

But there are other ways to volunteer your time if you're interested in helping out the department.

"The Chief has really refined that program and there's operational volunteers, there's support volunteers; if you want to be a volunteer with Truckee Meadows there's places where we can plug you in."

Volunteering is also a stepping stone for many who choose a career in the fire service - a job that's rewarding for those that put on a badge every day.

"iI love it, I've been doing this for 30 years and I still love coming to work every day," Stephenson said.