Shareholder Spotlight: Firefighting Academy Builds Strong Firefighters
By Leona Long
Public Information Officer, University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Rural and Community Development
As Alaska was still gearing up for fire season, eight Doyon, Limited shareholders were among the 24 wildland firefighters who attended the 2016 Alaska Advanced Wildland Firefighting Academy at Lost Lake Camp.
“I have been firefighting since 2008 and came to the academy to learn advanced firefighting and leadership skills,” said Derek Haven Williams, a cadet from Allakaket, Alaska, who is part of the Yukon Fire Crew. “I would recommend the academy to all firefighters because it helps you move up and get more qualifications on your red card.”
Some of these cadets came to the academy to learn advanced wildland firefighting and leadership skills so that they can help make their village firefighting crews stronger.
“I came to the academy to get more experience in the fire world, because I enjoy going out on fires,” said Eli Jay Sam, a cadet from Huslia, Alaska. “Now I can go back to my home village and show them what it is like to be part of an organized fire crew, so we can become a stronger crew. My favorite part of the academy was using the GPS, because that was a skill I wanted to learn, and learning how to better use the portable water pumps.”
Academy graduates who are Doyon shareholders include Kyle Allen of Tok, Shane M. Christo of Anchorage, Rich Freireich of Grayling, Clinton David Huntington of Tok, Andrew Runkle of Nikolai, Eli Jay Sam of Huslia, Daniel Thomas of Fairbanks, and Derek Havin Williams of Allakaket.
The two-week academy is run like a wildland fire incident. Firefighters began their day at 6 a.m. with exercise, including pushups on gravel or hikes carrying 45-pound packs, and continued with classwork or field exercises until 9 or 10 p.m.
“The academy was great,” said Rich Freireich, a cadet from Grayling. “We learned from some of the best and I learned a lot of invaluable information. I just moved back to the village. We have a lot of young firefighters. I am taking the knowledge I gained from the academy to help them become a more efficient and cohesive crew.”
Cadets learned advanced firefighting and leadership skills in the classroom and hands-on field training. They learned how to use portable pumps and water, wildland fire chainsaws, helicopter protocol, using maps and GPS for basic land navigation, air operations, leadership skills and safety. Cadets were awarded a University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) occupational endorsement in wildland fire science at the end of the academy.
“As a former Chief of Vashraii K’oo (Arctic Village), I understand the challenges facing our tribes and rural communities and the importance of a strong local workforce,” said Evon Peter, UAF vice chancellor of rural, community and Native education. “Our community partnership with the Alaska Division of Forestry is especially important because we are working together to help build stronger village fire crews that are in direct line of defense to protect and help save their village and other surrounding communities.”
The 2016 academy was made possible through a partnership between the Alaska Division of Forestry and the College of Rural and Community Development’s wildland fire science program. For the first time, sponsors, including the Alaska Division of Forestry, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Doyon, Tanana Chiefs Conference, Chugachmiut, Alaska Fire Service and the U.S. Forest Service, helped offset the costs to operate the academy.
“Maintaining the academy is important to Alaska’s resident recruitment pool,” said Tom Kurth, fire and aviation program manager for the Alaska Division of Forestry. “We have seen a reduction in funding available through the state of Alaska, so we have built partnerships with agencies and Native organizations that share our commitment to Alaska. Without the help of these organizations, the academy may not be possible in the future.”
The generosity of these sponsors provides cadets with transportation, lodging and meals during the academy.
“Doyon, Limited is committed to investing in our shareholders,” said PJ Simon, vice chair of the Doyon board of directors. “Sponsoring the 2016 Alaska Advanced Wildland Firefighting Academy is just one way that Doyon helps build capacity among our shareholders. We are proud of our shareholders who graduated from the academy. These young men learned advanced wildland firefighting and leadership skills that will help strengthen our region’s village fire crews.”
For more information about the Alaska Advanced Wildland Firefighting Academy or UAF College of Rural and Community Development, community campuses or any of the more than 40 certificate and degree programs available through the college, visit www.uaf.edu/rural or call 907-474-7143 or 866-478-2721.