West Nebraska Engine Academy

West Nebraska Engine Academy

Michael Forsberg, Platte Base Timelapse

Every September, hundreds of firefighters converge on the Wildcat Hills south of Gering, Nebraska to participate in a live fire exercise. The West Nebraska Engine Academy is one of a kind training opportunity for firefighters wanting to advanced through specific positions. The overall objective of the academy is to create opportunities for firefighters to further develop their skills in a safe live fire exercise while reducing fuels and creating healthier eco system in the Wildcat Hills.

This exercise operates as a Type 3 Incident and is supported with a full Incident Command Team through partnerships and Interagency cooperation. The exercise runs 3 operational periods. Each day the Incident Management Team releases an Incident Action Plan and briefs firefighting forces on the overall objectives.

Firefighters are immered in a learning and evaluation environment through appropriate supervisory roles. Each day firefighters can serve in various areas including fire suppression, Ignition Operations, Structure Triage and Structure Protection, Water Handling, and gaining experience working with aerial resources.

The unique component of the Academy is multiple types of aerial resources that are available for firefighters to use for suppression or reconnaissance operations. In recent years the Academy has hosted fixed wing and rotor wing air assets with various firefighting capabilities. Firefighters are able to communicate directly with aircraft on performance of water operations and learn how each type can assist with suppression efforts. “Boots on the ground” develop a better situational awareness and gain knowledge that can be used during true emergencies.

Through support from the Gering Fire Department, Nebraska Emergency Management, Nebraska Fire Marshal, Nebraska Forest Service, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, U.S. Forest Service and countless fire departments in the area, the West Nebraska Engine Academy has been a valuable and unique exercise open to any all firefighters.