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Wildfire Training Academy held at Garrett College | Local News

McHENRY — Gareth Davis was surprised to learn of the many differences between fighting structural versus wildfires.

Davis is a volunteer for the Odenton Volunteer Fire Company in Anne Arundel County, and in the process of becoming a career firefighter in Montgomery County.

On Thursday, he attended the annual Mid-Atlantic Compact Wildfire Training Academy being held at Garrett College this week.

In addition to Maryland, the event included more than 170 participants, instructors and staff from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Delaware and Virginia, as well as classes and hands-on activities designed to simulate wildfire conditions.

Gareth Davis

Gareth Davis

“It’s just completely different,” Davis said of methods used to contain urban versus wildfires. For instance, gear he wears to battle structural fires would be way too heavy to sustain during long hikes needed to fight wildfires, he said.

Cecile Stelter is the public information officer for the Mid-Atlantic Compact Wildfire Training Academy.

“The academy is run just like we do an incident,” she said of firefighting operations including logistical, planning, finance and dispatch. “(Instructors) bring experience from their own states.”

Upon completion of the academy, firefighters will be qualified to answer the call for wildland firefighting resources throughout the United States.

“It’s also a way to build relationships across the states,” Stelter said.

Most firefighters donate their work and time to help fight wildfires, she said.

“We appreciate the volunteers,” Stelter said. “We rely on these volunteers.”

Bob Hartlove of Morris, Pennsylvania, was training coordinator for the compact.

He’s been involved with fighting wildfires since 1974.

Over the years, technological advancements have improved communication and organization for the industry, he said.

“Today, it’s extremely coordinated,” Hartlove said. “We (also) have national standards.”

It can take many years for someone to be fully trained to fight wildfires, he said and added that there’s an “extreme” demand for firefighters.

“We’re already getting orders to send people to the southwest,” Hartlove said.

Isaiah Carrington of Accident volunteers for his local fire company, and works full-time as a firefighter for the Cumberland department.

Isaiah Carrington

Isaiah Carrington

He said he “learn a lot” at this week’s academy.

“I’m very glad to have this experience,” Carrington said.


Locally, the majority of wildfires are caused by people that burn trash in their yards. To stay safe, fire officials recommend folks that burn in their yards:

• Keep fires small.

• Monitor the fires.

• Have tools and water available.

• Monitor weather conditions.

• Burn in an area that’s clean and free of vegetation.

• Avoid areas with structures.

• Completely extinguish the fires upon completion.

Learn more at