Federal Funds Headed to Wildland Fire Tech

Firefighter sprays water on fire in wooded area
By Jill Dolan

April 19, 2024 - 10:28 AM

Mt. SAC’s new Wildland Fire Technology program will be able to purchase much-needed equipment and supplies thanks to a half-million dollars in federal funding recently approved by Congress and President Biden.

The college requested $534,000 in Congressionally Directed Spending (CDS), known as an earmark, through the offices of Sens. Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler, who replaced the late Dianne Feinstein.

“We are grateful to Sen. Padilla and Sen. Butler for their support of our program,” Mt. SAC President/CEO Dr. Martha Garcia said. “This funding will help us greatly in training our students as they prepare to enter the workforce.”

group of male students raising their hand to take an oathTo meet the needs of industry partners to combat wildland fires in the region and statewide, the college last year created a Wildland Fire Technology Certificate and Degree to train and certify wildland firefighters.  The first cohort of Wildland Fire Training students graduated from the academy this month. Up to 40 students will be enrolled in the academy twice annually.

“These jobs are good paying, with wages well above the family-sustaining level and have projected growth over the next decade and beyond,” said Ray Mosack, Director of Public Safety Programs. “Between now and 2030, California will need to fill an estimated 21,520 job openings for firefighters due to retirements, resignations, and growth positions.”

The Wildland Fire Technology Certificate provides training in hand crew formation, fireline construction, and the ​use​ of​ wildland ​fire ​tools and equipment. Courses include Wildland Fire Behavior, Wildland Firefighter Safety and Survival, Wildland Fire Operations, Wildland Fire Investigation, Prevention and Public Information, and Wildland Fire Logistics, Finance and Planning. The Wildland Fire Technology Program includes arduous physical conditioning including hiking with up to 45 ​pounds of weight and other strenuous outdoor activities.

All trainees will meet and exceed the minimum entry level qualifications for a United States Fire Service Wildland Firefighter and meet and exceed the minimum entry level qualifications for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.  Students completing the program will be prepared for immediate employment in high-demand jobs with the U.S. Forest Service and California Department of Forestry, as well as positions with municipal fire departments.

California is the most wildfire-prone state in the country. In 2021, over 9,000 wildfires burned throughout the state, ravishing 2.23 million acres. California accounted for roughly 31 percent of all acres burned due to wildland fires in the U.S.