Bastrop wildfire academy aims to prepare firefighters
BASTROP, Texas – Starting Friday, firefighters will head en masse to Camp Swift in Bastrop, just 3 miles from where one of the state’s most devastating wildfires occurred on Labor Day weekend.
This time, though, their assignment will be a little different. Rather than responding to an actual emergency, they’ll be training for future fires at the 14th annual Capital Area Interagency Wildfire Academy.
Designed for both beginning and advanced firefighters, municipal and rural volunteer firefighters and structural and wildland firefighters, the academy runs through Oct. 27.
Thirty-five classes are planned for this year’s academy. Topics include basic firefighting, ignitions, basic engine and suppression tactics, leadership, incident command, chainsaw safety, dozer operations, helicopter training and emergency vehicle operations.
“Firefighters are drawn to this academy because of the vast combined knowledge of the instructors and staff and the fire camp setting,” said Fire Prevention Specialist Jan Amen. “Volunteer fire departments in Texas are the first line of defense so their training not only benefits them but it benefits the entire state.”
Hundreds of firefighters often come from across the country — and sometimes from across the globe — to attend the two-week training academy, Amen said. Rather than having to attend for the duration of the academy, attendees can pick and choose applicable classes, many of which are offered on weekends.
The cost is $60 per day and includes breakfast, lunch and course materials. Volunteer firefighters can be reimbursed for this cost through the Rural Volunteer Fire Department Assistance Program, a grant program funded by the state and administered by Texas Forest Service.
Free lodging is available for firefighters who choose to stay in the base barracks or tent camp.
“This year has been devastating for our firefighters and civilians and we don’t expect it to improve over the long term even with recent rains,” Amen said. “We are excited to see high enrollment numbers again this year; it will prove to be a great academy.”
The academy is a joint effort coordinated by Texas Forest Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Weather Service, The Nature Conservancy, National Wildfire Coordinating Group, Texas Wildfire Association, Texas Army National Guard, Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management and area fire departments.
For more information or to register, go to the Texas Interagency Coordinating Center training page or contact the academy registrar at AcademyRegistrar@tfs.tamu.edu or 979-458-7330.