Lassen Community College, agencies train prospective firefighters

During Lassen Community College’s spring break, the college hosted the basic firefighter-training course, called Basic 32, in cooperation with the Lassen National Forest. The training was held at both the Ted Overton Training Center and the Eagle Lake Ranger District Office.

The five-day course prepared 20 students for a future to serve the local community in careers as wildland firefighters. With 20 eager students ready to engage in a future with local fire technology, there were 12 from LCC’s fire technology program. The basic firefighter training class was possible because of the highly skilled, experienced and knowledgeable members of the Lassen National Forest.
The Lassen Interagency Hotshot Crew coordinated this course with the assistance of members from the Chester Helitack Base and Engines 82/84.

The training was a mixture of classroom lecture and hands-on learning and is of immense value to the development of basic skills entering into the wildland firefighter career field. For example, on Tuesday’s training there were four stations to engage students in small groups for the purposes of tool sharpening, operation of various types of communication systems, map reading and another for showing prospective wildland firefighters what to expect to carry when on the fire line.
The interagency training had representation from Lassen Hotshots, the National Park Service, Lassen National Park the Forest Service, the engine crews from Bogard, the Bureau of Land Management, Chester Helitack and with several other volunteers from Susanville and Milford.

Basic 32 training participants learn their skills at the Eagle Lake Ranger Station — led by Captain Fernando Estrada, middle.

The program will be available again from June 11 – 15 to specifically hire for on-call potential hires and then in November as well for interested parties. The class is worth two units at LCC and is the basic requirements for getting a job with BLM, Forest Service or private contractors as a wildland firefighter.

With last year being the worst fire season in California history, especially within the Redding, Shasta and Trinity counties, the state is readying itself for the coming season, which is already here.

Captain Fernando Estrada from the Lassen Hotshots coordinated the weeklong training. He has been part of this training as well as his crew since 2008, but Estrada said, prior to his experience, the training has been going on for “10 or 15 years, maybe.”

Estrada is excited to hold the class again in November because it will give participants the chance to have direct guidance when applying for jobs and “help them with how to work the process of USAJobs” or “what to do when interviewing an agency” because when students come to them, “they don’t know what to ask.”

Estrada has been hopeful for bringing in recruits from the training into an agency for work. He sees the training as “not just a class, but an opportunity” and marked the program as essential to achieving a better chance with any of the present agencies.

With the addition of Chris Baker as the new fire science professor at LCC, (also there at the training) Estrada sees Basic 32 as a big step to “communicate between the college and the agency, and hopefully myself plus a few others can take (students) up higher.”

Although Estrada’s involvement with the training is full of lecture, he admitted other than Baker, all of those presenting are people in the fire science field and not teachers.

Baker went on proudly speaking of Estrada, “Fernando has a depth of experience. Since 2000, he’s spent time on the various modules and Helitack, and he’s worked his way up to captain of the Hotshots.”

Explaining Estrada’s knowledge as allowing the training to be “multidimensional” of which “is a great opportunity for our local students. We’re trying to develop a collaborative effort to where we can help our students help the community and also help our public safety agencies with hiring. These students are getting valuable information not only on the position and the job, but how to get the job.

So now they’re getting the tools they need to successful.”

As a Lassen Hotshot, Estrada works with many other agencies. The work is done through a collaborative relationship with all of the local fire agencies across the north state. The interagency approach is essential for a successful and whole approach to basic fire science.

Estrada summed up the need of a use of an interagency collaboration when he said, “Fire doesn’t discriminate.”

Estrada spoke about his experience prior to being a Hotshot, and said, “In 2011, I started helping out with Basic 32 … and little-by-little I found I liked it.”

Out of those 20 students present, there were two who shared their impression on their experience with the weeklong training. Efrain

Miraz and Kyle, both 18-year-old freshmen at LCC.

Miraz expressed this year has been his first introduction to fire science education, but that he preferred the provided hands-on work, “rather than just marking an answer on a paper.” Miraz explained he was pursuing a career in fire service and is getting his degree at LCC to get him there, but plans on eventually obtaining a master’s degree. Miraz has also been an Explorer with the Susanville Fire Department for the past four years, but has wanted to be in this line of work since eighth grade.

Kyle explained he spent his previous semester in criminal justice, but quickly changed to full load in fire science classes in the spring semester. His brother, being in the fire field, was what changed his mind. He too said he, “enjoyed the hands-on experience rather than death by PowerPoint.”

Kyle expressed interest in joining the Hotshot crew and has signed up to volunteer in Chester, where he currently works at Holiday Market.

This invaluable education and experience properly readied those interested in pursuing a career as a wild land firefighter. If, in June, you find yourself interested in embarking in the direction of the fire science field; if you like to work outdoors and have the commitment within you to follow through, make sure you sign up for their training.