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July, 2008

Fire Academy Teaches Wildland Firefighting Skills

For the first time ever, the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) hosted its annual week-long Wildland Fire Academy at Longwood University in Farmville. Previous academies were held at Fort Pickett in Blackstone.

A record 539 students, many of whom are members of volunteer fire departments from across Virginia, joined wildland firefighters from Virginia and seven other Eastern states, at this year's event. Classes took place on campus as well as at the 6,496-acre Prince Edward/Gallion State Forest, which is located approximately 15 miles southeast of Longwood University.

Ninety certified instructors taught 17 courses such as basic and advanced firefighter training, firefighting tactics, fire weather and behavior, fire-engine operations, bulldozer operations, chain saw operations, and safety and incident management topics.

“The academy gives the students opportunities that don't come up on a regular basis,” said Paul Stoneburner, instructor for the chainsaw operations class. “Students can cut trees in a setting where they can practice safe techniques and also ask questions. All the trees are then hauled away by a logger, so everything is utilized. Anything that was done is both an exercise for the students and a benefit to where we work.”

As the state's population has grown and more homes have been built in rural and suburban areas, more people and more property are at risk. Already this year, firefighters in Virginia have protected 566 homes and 378 other structures, such as barns, garages and sheds, from wildland fires.

State Forester Carl Garrison said, “The Wildland Fire Academy is the most comprehensive training program we offer each year. The more techniques we can teach firefighters the better prepared they will be to safely attack and suppress wildland fires. And that will help reduce the loss of life and property.”

As the threat of wildland fire continues to grow in Virginia, preparing people to fight these fires is vital to preventing the loss of lives, homes and other property. [Since Jan. 1, 2008, Virginia has had more acres burn (26,296) already this year than burned in any single entire year since 1963.]

In The Woods at Forestry Camp

A wide range of activities is available at Holiday Lake Foresty Camp.The 62nd annual Holiday Lake Forestry Camp was another fun-filled, learning-packed success. Seventy-eight campers and five teachers from 44 counties participated this year.

Camp's core classes were Tree Identification, Forest Measurements, Timber Harvesting, Wildlife Management, Tree Improvement, Forest Ecology, Forest Management, Environmental Protection, and Reproducing the Forest. Other camp experiences included a field trip to Greif-Riverville paper mill, an afternoon of arboriculture demonstrations, wildlife presentations, and forest products exploration. Exploratory short courses, Lumberjack competition, sports and swimming rounded out the program.

The campers and teachers took home excellent resource materials, such as tree identification books and Biltmore sticks. The top 10 campers (as scored academically throughout the week) received awards of outdoor recreation supplies. The top-scoring camper, Sarah Collie from Washington County, also received a $100 savings bond for her efforts.Students test their skill at Holiday Lake Forestry Camp.

This year's program included a Forestry Field Day for campers' parents. Twenty-five parents experienced short versions of tree identification and forest measurement classes and toured Appomattox-Buckingham State Forest to see forest management in action. They took home information to use on their own property and to share with neighbors.

Ensuring a safe, high-quality program takes a large number of dedicated staff, all of whom are taking time away from their regular duties to be at camp. This year, 27 full-time staff and 34 part-time staff represented VDOF and 14 other agencies and organizations. Donations from 42 groups, businesses, and individuals - totaling nearly $20,000 - once again allowed campers to attend at minimal personal cost.

Online Option Increases Sales of State Forest Hunting Permits

Everyone expects to be able to conduct business online, why not sell State Forest Hunting Permits online? That was the idea of Tammy Ingle, a VDOF employee at the Cumberland State Forest. A partnership with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) enabled VDOF to offer the permit through the DGIF website. During the first year of this online offering, sales of permits increased 49%, which resulted in a revenue increase of 49%. All revenue from the sales of the permits supports the operation of the state forests. Permits cost $15.