A firefighting crew finishes up putting out a wildfire at Black Hut State Management Area, Burrillville, summer 2022.

DEM announces wildland firefighting training program to strengthen RI’s ability to fight wildfires

The Department of Environmental Management today is announcing it is offering in late spring an intensive, introductory course designed to train new firefighters in the tools, tactics, and strategies used to suppress uncontrolled wildland fires. In 2022, which was marked by a severe drought that the state is only now recovering from, Rhode Island experienced more than 80 wildfires. Parched conditions forced DEM to ban outdoor fires at all state campgrounds, parks, and management areas for a two-week period in August.

DEM will hold the no-cost, four-day, and classroom- and field-based training course – with the curriculum designed by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) – at its George Washington Management Area office in Chepachet in June. It will qualify students to a higher skill designation level recognized by the NWCG and expand the state’s capacity to respond to wildfires, which are expected to become more frequent as climate change continues to create warmer, drier conditions, leading to longer and more active fire seasons.

“DEM’s Forest Fire Program works closely with Rhode Island fire departments to suppress wildfires,” said Principal Forest Ranger and Training Officer Ben Arnold of the DEM Division of Agriculture and Forest Environment. “We rely on municipal fire departments to fight wildfires and fire departments rely on us in the same way. This training will allow us to build the capacity needed to address the increasing wildfire activity we’ve seen in recent years. The program offers an opportunity to both DEM employees and Rhode Island firefighters who seek wildfire suppression training at the national standard.”

Earlier this month, DEM announced a policy of increasing the use of prescribed fires in 2023. Arnold noted that training firefighters is one of the major goals of prescribed fires, so the training course aligns with DEM’s forestry management strategy. “We strongly believe that more planned, prescribed fires mean fewer unplanned, extreme wildfires,” Arnold said.

Space will be limited with priority given to local municipal firefighters and DEM employees. Registration is open until Feb. 28. Acceptance letters will be sent notifying applicants of their admission. Questions may be directed to Ben Arnold (Ben.Arnold@dem.ri.gov) or Patrick MacMeekin (Patrick.Macmeekin@dem.ri.gov) of the Division of Agriculture and Forest Environment.



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