New club will help students earn nationally recognized wildland fire certification

Published: March 16, 2020
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A new student organization, the Wildland Fire Club, has been created at Auburn University to assist students in earning the Wildland Fire Fighter Type 2, referred to as FFT2 certification. It is a nationally recognized certification administered by the National Wildland Fire Coordinating Group that allows individuals to participate in wildland fire activities on public lands.

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

Although there is a fire ecology course offered in the Auburn’s 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 nor does it allow students to participate in prescribed burns on state or federal lands.

The new Wildland Fire Club, or 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.

As an undergraduate, 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, says 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,” Barlow said. “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.”

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 and how to become a member, contact Elrod at jte0017@auburn.edu.

(Written by Avanelle Elmore)

The Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences is a flagship institution for natural resources-based degrees including natural resource management, geospatial and environmental informatics and sustainable biomaterials and packaging. The school serves as the backbone for Alabama’s $30 billion-plus forest, wildlife and natural resources related enterprises. Its mission is to create next-generation professionals and leaders, to develop new knowledge and disseminate science-based solutions to our clientele to improve the social, economic and environmental well-being of citizens in Alabama and beyond.