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A new student organization, the Wildland Fire Club, or WFC, has been created to assist students in earning the Wildland Fire Fighter Type 2, or FFT2 certification. The FFT2 certification is a nationally-recognized certification administered by the National Wildland Fire Coordinating Group which allows individuals to participate in wildland fire activities on public lands.

Other institutions such as Clemson University, Alabama A&M University, the University of Georgia, the University of Florida and Louisiana State University offer students opportunities to pursue the FFT2 certification. 

Although there is a fire ecology course offered in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences that allows students to fulfill the education and experience requirements for the state-regulated Alabama Prescribed Burn Manager certification, it is not recognized by federal or state agencies and it does not allow students to participate in prescribed burns on state or federal lands.

The WFC, was founded by James Elrod, a former forestry student and current graduate student in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, to provide this opportunity for students at Auburn University.

As an undergraduate student, Elrod saw a need for students to acquire skills in wildfire suppression and the use of prescribed fire. Returning as a graduate student, he set out to address this gap. 

“This organization will be a great addition to our school as the WFC is dedicated to the education, certification and safety of students passionate about wildland fire,” Elrod said.

Through its partnership with state and federal agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service and the Alabama Forestry Commission, the club plans to provide students with the opportunity to participate in prescribed burns on state and federal lands. This will not only allow students to gain experience in a safe and professional wildland fire environment, but will also assist state agencies, who are experiencing a shortage of certified personnel, in burn operations across the state.

“Safety will always be our top priority. The FFT2 certification training will teach students more about burning processes and how to remain safe throughout these procedures,” said Elrod.

The club’s faculty advisor Extension Coordinator and Professor Becky Barlow thinks that the club is an important addition to the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

“Fire is a vital part of natural systems and land management here in the southeastern U.S., across the country and the world.”

“It is my hope that with this club, we will be able to support students who already have an interest in prescribed fire and help to educate other students and the public on the topic as well,” Barlow said.

The club will hold monthly meetings on the first Wednesday of every month at 6 p.m. in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. These meetings will allow members to further their wildland fire knowledge through informational sessions, guest speakers, field training exercises and other activities. 

The club will also participate in outreach opportunities every semester to educate the general public on the benefits and need for wildland fire. For more information on the club or to learn how to become a member, contact Elrod at jte0017@auburn.edu.

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Members of the Wildland Fire Club traveled to Sehoy Plantation in Hurtsboro, AL, to attend the 2020 Learn and Burn, a live fire demonstration hosted by the Alabama Forestry Commission and the Alabama Prescribed Fire Counsel.