These CFAES courses are on fire (sign up!)

March 21, 2018
Students at The Ohio State University have a unique opportunity to take a two-course sequence that culminates with a real prescribed burn and certification.

Hey, Ohio State students: The courses described in this story are taught during Autumn Semester. Course enrollment for Autumn Semester 2018 begins at the end of March and runs through mid- to late April. So sign up soon if you’re interested!

Students at The Ohio State University have a unique opportunity to take a two-course sequence that culminates with a real prescribed burn and certification.

The courses, offered by CFAES’s School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR), teach about fire ecology, fire’s role in ecosystems, and managing controlled and wild fires. In the end, students prepare for and conduct a prescribed burn.

Learn about fire ecology, controlled burns, more

“Prescribed burns are fires that are intentionally set under controlled conditions to mimic natural occurring fires in ecosystems to reap the benefits of fire through management,” said Roger Williams, associate professor of forest ecosystem analysis and management in SENR.

Certifications give students a leg up for jobs

“In wildland fire suppression in the United States, S-130/S-190 are two basic wildland fire training courses required of all firefighters before they can be certified to work on firelines or participate in controlled (prescribed) burns,” Williams said.

Wildland fire training in the United States has been standardized by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group since the 1970s, he said.

At Ohio State, Introduction to Wildland Fire Management (ENR 3335.01) contains the S-190 instruction material, and Wildland Fire Management Laboratory (ENR 3335.02) contains the S-130 instruction material and includes the prescribed burn and the fitness test.

‘A real benefit’ for getting a Red Card

Students who enroll in and successfully complete the two courses are qualified to suppress wildland fires while under close supervision, Williams said. The students qualify for an Incident Qualification Card, also called a Red Card, pending completion of a physical fitness test that includes walking 3 miles within 45 minutes carrying a 45-pound backpack.


Students in the Wildland Fire Management Laboratory participate in a prescribed burn at the Larry R. Yoder Prairie Nature Center on Ohio State’s Marion campus, shown here. The course includes training in the proper and safe use of a drip torch, which was used to start this fire. The students used a ring-fire method, starting with a backing fire, then a flanking fire, and finally a head fire. (Photo courtesy of Roger Williams.)

Wildland fire training in the United States has been standardized by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group since the 1970s, he said.

At Ohio State, Introduction to Wildland Fire Management (ENR 3335.01) contains the S-190 instruction material, and Wildland Fire Management Laboratory (ENR 3335.02) contains the S-130 instruction material and includes the prescribed burn and the fitness test.

‘A real benefit’ for getting a Red Card

Students who enroll in and successfully complete the two courses are qualified to suppress wildland fires while under close supervision, Williams said. The students qualify for an Incident Qualification Card, also called a Red Card, pending completion of a physical fitness test that includes walking 3 miles within 45 minutes carrying a 45-pound backpack.


Students build firelines around the prairie before the burn, using the different methods of fireline construction taught in class. This helps to contain the fire within the prairie. (Photo courtesy of Roger Williams.)

Participating in the prescribed burn is not necessary for certification but is a course requirement.

“The course is a real benefit to students interested in acquiring jobs that require Red Card certification,” Williams said.

Good experience for future jobs

Participating in the burn provides invaluable experience toward future employment, Williams said. In addition, higher-level certifications, such as Burn Boss, require experience with prescribed fire, and the burn provides one of those experiences.

Many natural resource management organizations, including federal and state agencies, private nonprofit organizations, consulting firms, and forest management companies, require this certification. Employers are looking for new hires to not only have completed a college degree, but also to be already certified in various subject matter areas — eliminating the time and costs associated with training for certification after hiring. Certification can give a student a competitive advantage, Williams said.

Plan, conduct a burn

To plan and execute the controlled prairie burn at the Yoder prairie center on the Marion campus, the students review and practice a number of techniques, including:

  • Reviewing prescribed burn plans and “burn windows.”
  • Constructing necessary firelines around the area to be burned, using different methods taught in class and utilizing different fireline tools.
  • Setting up and placing a water pump in a nearby pond.
  • Setting up progressive water hose lays to the area to be burned.
  • Practicing deploying fire shelters prior to the burn in the event they find themselves overrun by fire and cannot escape — a situation more likely encountered fighting a wildland fire rather than a prescribed burn.

Learn more

For more about the courses, contact Williams at williams.1577@osu.eduor 614-688-4061.—Written by Molly Bean, Communications Program Manager, SENR