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Video: Local students learn wildland firefighting skills from BLM, U.S. Forest Service pros

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By Michelle Baker 

Fourteen students from Academy of Arts Career & Technology High School (AACT) on Monday donned line gear and headed to the Hidden Valley foothills in east Reno to train with local wildland firefighters during a “mock fire” drill. 

The students are the first to participate in the Fire Science Career and Technical Education Program at AACT, the newest academy at the high school. Students must apply to the high school and then apply to their academy of choice. 

The students have experienced smaller drills at their school, but this was their first class trip in the field, putting the skills they’ve learned to the test. 

“They get to work with real firefighters every day, so it’s real life, it’s relevant, it’s hands-on,” AACT Principal Mike Gifford said. “It’s a fun break in the day that they get to learn something that they’re going to be able to use in real life.”

The “mock fire” is a standard drill that teaches prospective firefighters to put out fires in a realistic and controlled setting. 

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighters led students through the drill. They taught them how to carry fire hoses, manage the perimeter of a brush fire and communicate effectively with other team members. The program’s curriculum is developed through the partnership between BLM and AACT to give students the knowledge and training they need to pursue careers in fire science.

AACT is a part of the Washoe County School District. Each student belongs to one of eight academies that help develop the specific skills students need to excel in their field. Some of these specialty courses also count toward their college credits. 

Gifford said completing the program also allows students to work for the BLM “a little bit earlier” than if they weren’t enrolled. 

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