Engine academy winds up 2-week driving, leadership training for firefighters

ST. GEORGE – Fire supervisors from throughout the Intermountain region are honing their skills in preparation for wildfire season at a two-week course wrapping up this week at the Ridge Top Complex, site of the old St. George Municipal Airport.

The Great Basin Engine Academy is an intensive 80-hour course designed to expose students to all aspects of wildland fire engine operations with an emphasis on practical application and testing.

“The idea is to give you all the skills necessary so you can perform your job adequately and safely and teach that on to others,” Brian Reublinger, Reno fire supervisor and engine academy student, said.

“That’s how you really develop running your engine most effectively, when you get into that jam or that emergency situation,” he added. “You already know how to react because you already have that experience, whether it’s in a training environment or on a real wildland fire.”

Firefighters from Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Montana, Texas and Georgia attended the training which was held at Dixie Applied Technology College’s Emergency Response Training Center. The academy is sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service with the cooperation of the Bureau of Land Management Arizona Strip District.

Tuesday was engine skills day, the longest and most complicated day of the academy. Testing stations included advanced driving, pumping, fire scenarios, evasive driving, backing-up exercises and engine preventative maintenance.

“I’ve learned some great stuff in the classroom for two days straight,” Ellis Johnston, captain, firefighter and paramedic in Rexburg, Idaho, said. “And then we’ve applied all those things, hands-on, which is really how I learn and I think a lot of firemen do, so it’s a great way to build that knowledge.”

The class consisted of 31 students from municipal and Forest Service fire units, including three women. Attendees were primarily mid-level supervisors such as engine captains and lead crew members.

“They’re learning leadership skills,” Kim Osborn, Intermountain Regional Fire Training Specialist, said, “in addition to gaining practical knowledge.”

DXATC provides an ideal setting for the annual course, with classrooms and plenty of heavy-duty pavement. The location, once used as the former airport runways, is perfect for practice sessions using heavy fire engines, Osborn said.

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