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In the summer of 1995, two severe wildfires devastated the Central Pine Barrens communities of Rocky Point, Ridge, Northampton and Westhampton Beach. These events represented the first time in recent history in which local firefighters faced wildfires of the scale and magnitude of those more commonly associated with the western United States.
One of the lessons learned from these wildfires was that there was a need to provide more formal, comprehensive training in wildfire and brushfire response for local and regional firefighters and agencies with responsibilities for wildfire prevention and response. As a result, in 1997 the New York Wildfire and Incident Management Academy (NYWIMA) was formed to help address this need. The following year, the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission formalized NYWIMA and established it as a discrete entity under the Commission’s administrative and managerial control (Commission resolution establishing NYWIMA, reporting requirements, and Policies and Procedures) Over time, a realization developed that there was an increased need for training to respond to non-wildfire incidents and so this wildfire academy has also embraced and expanded its all-hazards training opportunities in response. In the course of its existence, NYWIMA has trained more than 7,300 firefighters and emergency response personnel.
NYWIMA is overseen by a five-member board of directors appointed by the Commission and its day to day operations are managed by the Academy Coordinator. In addition, over a nine-month period, NYWIMA conducts planning meetings, with participants drawn from its cooperating, sponsoring and supporting agencies, to propose and prepare its training program for the year.
NYWIMA's goal is to provide all-hazards, wildfire and incident management training in a safe learning environment for first responders, public safety personnel, emergency services workers, firefighters and incident managers and to foster greater networking opportunities and partnerships among participants from federal, state and local agencies.
To aid in achieving this objective, NYWIMA is managed to mirror an actual incident utilizing the Incident Command System (ICS)/National Incident Management System (NIMS) under the direction of an Incident Management Team (IMT). The IMT reflects the interagency and cooperative nature of today's incident management philosophy with team members coming from federal, state and local agencies.
NYWIMA conducts its training mission in conjunction with a vast number of cooperating, sponsoring and supporting agencies which include the following:
- Brookhaven National Laboratory
- United States Bureau of Land Management
- National Park Service
- United States Coast Guard
- United States Forest Service
- United States Fish and Wildlife Service
State and Regional
- Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning & Policy Commission
- Central Pine Barrens Wildfire Task Force
- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
- New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services
- Office of Emergency Management
- Office of Fire Prevention & Control
- Office of Interoperable Emergency Communications
- New York State Incident Management Team
- Northeast Forest Fire Protection Compact
- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management
- Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation
- New Jersey Forest Fire Service
City, County and Other Organizations
- Fire Department of New York (FDNY)
- Suffolk County Department of Fire, Rescue, and Emergency Services (FRES)
- Suffolk County Fire Academy
- Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation
- Colorado Wildfire and Incident Management Academy
- Nassau County Office of Emergency Management
Students are trained to NIMS and National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) standards, with certified trainers coming from local, state and federal agencies. Academy attendees may be able to participate in managing a unit of the IMT under the supervision of a qualified trainer. Training opportunities exist in Planning, Logistics and Operations branches, as well as other units and within other positions, of the Academy’s IMT.
NYWIMA operations follow these five objectives:
- Train students to National Incident Management System (NIMS) and National Wildfire Coordinating Standards (NWCG).
- Develop qualified trainers and instructors for Wildfire and Incident Management Courses.
- Develop awareness of all-hazards and fire management and fire fighting safety among first responders, public safety personnel, emergency services workers, fire fighting organizations, incident managers and public officials.
- Encourage interagency cooperation, coordination, exchange of experience, education and technology transfer from all levels of government.
- Develop a group of interagency leaders to build upon the first four goals in the metropolitan New York and Northeast Region.
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