The classroom portions of the two basic fire training courses needed for qualification as a wildland firefighter can now be taken online. Each course is broken into short, 1 to 3 hour modules enabling students to complete courses at their own pace. Collectively, the two courses offer approximately 40 hours of training.

The two courses, which firefighter trainees traditionally have taken together, are S-130 Firefighter Training and S-190 Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior. The courses are designed to teach the basic strategies and tactics crews use to fight fires burning in vegetation, how wildland fire behaves, and how weather influences the spread of wildland fire. Additionally, S-130 contains a shorter course called L-180, Human Factors on the Fireline, and learners who complete the entire S-130 course earn a certificate for L-180 as well.

"We are really interested in increasing the firefighting capabilities and capacity of local fire departments," said Brian McManus, who chairs the National Wildfire Coordinating Group and serves as the Fire Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Often, local fire departments are the closest forces to fires on federal land, so we are pleased to help make quality training opportunities available to these valued partners."

Prospective firefighters will still have to complete the field portion of S-130 before receiving course certificates for S-130, S-190 and L-180 and becoming qualified as a wildland firefighter.

According to Dan Smith, Fire Director for the National Association of State Foresters, making these widely-used courses available online can be important to helping meet the training needs of local fire department personnel--and accomplishing that in a way that works well for departments with scarce funds and availability of time.

The advantages of on-line training are more than economic. "Many structural fire departments in rural and suburbanizing areas are taking an increasing role in wildland firefighting, as homebuilders continue to build in areas dominated by wildland fuels," Smith explained. "Local fire departments realize they are going to be fighting more and more brush fires and forest fires, and they want to do that work safely and effectively. In this business nobody does anything alone, and we depend upon one another as neighbors and partners."