NAMPA — While the U.S. simultaneously grapples with the western wildfires and a wildland firefighter shortage, students at the College of Western Idaho are training to help meet those needs and help out in the future.
"Today, we're doing search and rescue drills, so we're getting comfortable pulling victims out and finding them in low visibility conditions," said student Tara Fisher.
CWI students gear up, run drills, and see if they have what it takes to become firefighters.
"Yeah, it is very physically taxing, we come out pretty much soaked in sweat every day," said Will Camara, a student enrolled in the fire service program.
It's also mentally taxing.
"Stopping is never the answer; you just have to always push through," said Camara.
The CWI fire service program is modeled after a fire academy, and local firefighters from Nampa and Boise help assist with the drills.
"20% classroom work and 80% hands-on physical training, like what they're going through here," said director of the fire service program Darrin Raskopf. "When they get finished with their book and hands-on training, they actually get to test with the state of Idaho and get a Firefighter I certification from the state of Idaho."
According to Darrin, that puts them above most applicants for local firefighting jobs. Plus, they meet their potential, future coworkers in the training.
"We tell them it's almost like a job interview for 16 weeks. They get to see you, see how you progress, it's going to do nothing but help you get a career in the fire service," said Raskopf.
A section of the course is dedicated to wildland firefighting. Camara and Fisher both say they'd head out west if they're ever called upon to help in the future.
"I grew up in northern California, and my home town seems like it's on fire pretty much every year, so it's hard to see, and I'd love to do something to help," said Camara.
"I did two years in wildland before this, and I loved it," said Fisher.
It's not an easy job or course, but the skills can help save lives one day.
"For me being smaller, it's definitely about technique; I'm not going to be able to pull someone that's 250 pounds with pure brute force that just doesn't exist, so it's about learning those techniques and being the best firefighter I can be," said Fisher.
This is the second year of the program through CWI. There are 14 students in this year's academy. To join, you have to be a certified EMT and at least 18 years old.