Every year around this time, Brookhaven National Lab hosts the New York Wildfire and Incident Management Academy (NYWIMA). This year, the academy took place from Oct. 20 to Oct. 27. Over 260 people from 17 states and Canada attended.
The goal of NYWIMA is to provide training in a safe, contained learning environment for first responders, public safety personnel, emergency service workers, firefighters, and incident managers. They also aim to foster networking opportunities and partnerships among participants from local, state, and federal agencies.
Some courses the academy offers include Off-Highway Vehicle Basic Driver Course, Introduction to Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Unmanned Aircraft Systems FAA Prep Course, Firefighting Training/Intro to Wildland Fire Behavior, Wildland Fire Chainsaws, Portable Pumps and Water Use, and more. There are also a few courses that require prerequisites to be fulfilled to be able to take the class.
Chuck Hamilton, academy coordinator, explained why the NYWIMA was created.
“This academy came about because of the event called the 1995 Sunrise Fires. In late August of 1995, we had a very dry season here in Suffolk County, and we had this fire start on a Monday evening and ran 1000 acres that first night,” he said. “On that Tuesday, every fire department on Long Island was at that fire. We were doing pretty well on Wednesday, but on Thursday of that week, we turned around and looked towards the east to see a smoke column around 1500 feet in height. It was called the Eastport Fire.”
In 1997, Hamilton went to Colorado Wildfire Academy; he was in awe of the many courses the academy offered. He worked with teachers and instructors. He attended again in 1998. That was when he realized there should be a wildfire academy in New York and worked to get one started in October.
“At that point, they [Colorado Wildfire Academy] came to help us and support us. We met with organizations such as the Brookhaven National Lab, and Suffolk County Fire Rescue Emergency Services, [and] all came together to help us set up the academy and run the academy,” he explained.
The first academy offered 10 courses and had approximately 170 students. Since then, people have come from all over the world to take courses. Each course is suited to different experience levels. Students take a survey, and adjustments are made to the academy based on their feedback.
Out on the field, trainees were participating in fire hose training and getting into and out of fire shelters. After the students were in the fire shelter, someone walked around to ensure they were in securely. Due to the dampness, they were unable to use fire in the demonstration.