The University of Montana’s Fire Program, based in the College of Forestry and Conservation, is now certified by the Association for Fire Ecology.
AFE’s certification recognizes the national impact of UM’s academic programs in wildland fire sciences and management, which include a minor in fire sciences, a major in resource conservation and graduate degrees in forestry and resource conservation. UM’s fire degrees combine rigorous academic coursework with innovative field experiences to train the next generation fire professionals.
UM was among seven academic programs certified by AFE in 2013. The association developed the certification to recognize academic programs that prepare future fire professionals. Students who graduate from an AFE-certified program have expedited application access to certification as an AFE professional wildland fire managers and ecologists.
UM’s Fire Program is rooted in a long history of fire management education and outreach. It recently diversified to incorporate new field learning opportunities for students. For example, in the Prescribed Fire Practicum, eight to 10 students to work with faculty and land managers to restore fire to forests in the southeastern U.S. Through field-based interactions with students, UM faculty member and practicum instructor Carl Seielstad identified a need for new coursework and professional development opportunities for student firefighters.
“Student firefighters are a unique population,” Seielstad said. “They’re working hard all summer and into the fall to fight fire and advance their firefighting careers. During the school year they have to turn attention to a new set of requirements. Our goal is to help them balance the two – to gain the education, experience and practical skills that will enable them to become high-performing fire managers who can fix what’s broken.”
UM’s fire sciences minor was added to the College of Forestry and Conservation’s academic offerings in 2011. Students can add the minor to any of the college’s five academic majors, or earn a Bachelor of Science in resource conservation with a wildland fire management emphasis.