Stories in Colorado

Firefighter Academy

Building capacity to restore forests and protect watersheds through prescribed fire training.

Fire Training

The Nature Conservancy’s forest and fire program is working throughout Colorado to restore forests, protect watersheds and bring fire back to the land. One of the program’s missions is to provide training to both new and experienced firefighters. This will help the Conservancy build capacity and add value to other organizations' ability to assist with prescribed fire.

For the last two years, the Conservancy in Colorado has facilitated and hosted a "Basic Firefighter Academy." This training involves months of pre-work and planning and culminates with a fun and complex field day to synchronize the classroom training into reality.

This past spring, Conservancy fire crew members Carmella and Lydia led 1 ½ days of field training, focused on pumps, hose lays, firing devices/ patterns (how we start things on fire in the best way), a comprehensive engine tutorial, a hands-on weather tutorial (how we collect and interpret data for real-time weather readings), line digging, gridding and a fire deployment drill.

Carmella recruited a class of 21 individuals representing nine agencies who all have a shared interest in volunteering in a fire capacity with The Nature Conservancy. Of the 21 individuals represented, over 50% were women.

“After months of preparation it was very rewarding to have so many people interested in expanding their fire skills and help on Conservancy projects,” said Carmella. “It was also inspiring to get to spread my love of fire to other females.”

Growing Capacity

Through this training, Carmella and Lydia have helped to build a qualified volunteer staff that can assist the Conservancy in on the ground forest restoration and fire projects. Whether it's preparing a unit to burn, or conducting a prescribed fire, each of these individuals is now qualified to assist at a basic level.

This training component is a part of a larger education initiative which includes basic, intermediate and advanced academies, supporting Team Rubicon training and incorporating ongoing field learning on our prescribed fires to assist with on-the-job training requirements.

“We are so excited to see how quickly our training program has grown,” said Gabe Donaldson, fire program manager. “Building capacity and helping to develop fire careers will not only help the Conservancy achieve its goals, but also advance these much-needed efforts throughout the state and beyond.”