CCC students learn to fight wildfires


Students from across the state come to CCC in Flagstaff for Wildland Firefighter training.



FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Dressed in yellow, green and tan, they form a line and work up the hill. Hot sun beats down on them while they heft Pulaskis and fire rakes. Their work kicks up dust as they make a fire line up the hillside.


“Keep it moving,” yells out one of the students.


Making a fire line was one of several exercises that 19 students in Coconino Community College’s Wildland Firefighter class participated in this summer. The week-long class gets students certified to help them get an entry-level job in wildland fire suppression. The next class at CCC begins Sept. 15.


“Since the course complies with the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, the certificate is good nationwide,” said Paul Sanders, instructor of the class. “A career in wildland firefighting is unlike any other. It is physically, mentally and emotionally demanding, but rewarding.”


Shane Hanna, Matt Capron and Isaac Aulner were among the students in the class. All three are with the Arizona Conservation Corps Tucson office and came up to Flagstaff for the week of training to get their certification. All three are U.S. Army veterans participating in the program, specifically created for veterans, to learn wildland conservation and firefighting.


Hanna’s ultimate goal is to be a National Park Service ranger.


“Since my time in the military, I didn’t feel like much of what I was doing had much purpose to it,” Hanna said. “I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself and get that feeling again.”


Capron said, “I love being outdoors and am passionate about conservation.”


Originally from California, Capron wants to work for the Parks and Recreation department for the greater Los Angeles area to help better maintain and care for the area’s parks and natural sites.


Aulner said that working in an office and doing paperwork is not his idea of fun.


“I really want to go for environmental science,” Aulner said. “It’s my peak interest.”


All three men are ready for the prospect of being able to help fight wildland fires.


“I wouldn’t be in the class if I weren’t willing,” Hanna said, smiling. “I knew what I was getting into, and now I want to get into it.”


Capron said, “I’m comfortable with it. I have no illusions about how hard the work is going to be.”


Aulner said, “It’s exciting. If they call us tomorrow … I’d jump all over it. It’d be an intense experience.”


Marc Goldberg, coordinator for CCC’s Fire Science program, said that CCC partnered with the Arizona Conservation Corps in the spring of 2019 to offer the certifications. Previously, ACC was sending corps members to Colorado for the training.


“Through the partnership, they can keep their members local and save money on travel and classes, while we can offer students more opportunities to take the class for either structural or wildland firefighting,” Goldberg said.


Sanders said that students go over a wide variety of topics during the course. The students learn firefighting orders, watch-out situations, communications, escape routes, safety zones and more. They also learn to use the tools and equipment of wildland firefighting. And, yes, they also learn to put out fires with and without water.


“The profession is unique in the sense that you can take a multitude of different career paths with different agencies, depending on what interests you,” Sanders said. “It’s kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure book, if you will.”


For more information about CCC’s Wildfire Suppression certificate, visit For a photo essay of the Wildland Firefighter class at CCC, visit



Tuesday, 21st July 2020

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  • Tuesday, 21st July 2020