Air Resource Advisor Training  Class

Air Resource Advisor Training

To become an Air Resource Advisor, completion and certification through an intensive training course is required.   These courses are typically offered annually. This page contains information on the current training course.

2024 Air Resource Advisor Training Class Announced - June 24-28, 2024

Air Resource Advisors provide wildland fire smoke impact information to help the public reduce their exposure to smoke and support Incident Management Teams on personnel smoke exposure and smoke impacts to roadway safety challenges. Do you have what it takes to be an Air Resource Advisor?  A new in-person training session will be held June 24-28, 2024 for well-qualified applicants.

 

Smoke from wildfires is a significant concern that demands a coordinated, concerted, and dedicated response. The Interagency Wildland Fire Air Quality Response Program (IWFAQRP) trains Technical Specialists (THSP) Air Resource Advisors (ARAs) for deployment as smoke specialists to wildfire incidents across the country.  ARAs are the front-line smoke experts; they assess and predict smoke impacts, monitor air quality conditions, coordinate and deliver messaging to the public with local and State/Tribal air quality and health officials, and work with the public, agency administrators and for the Incident Management Team to address a wide variety of smoke issues and concerns. This is hard, difficult work with long hours in a stressful situation, but very rewarding, as the work of ARAs has helped reduce smoke exposure to fire personnel and the public improving health and safety around wildfires. 

 

For more information on course pre-work, see IWFAQRP - Pre-Work page


2024 FULL CLASS ANNOUNCEMENT 


Air Resource Advisor Training Class

June 24 – 28, 2024 Location TBD

Call for Applications – Due by 2/23/24

PDF version


On June 24th through June 28th, 2024, Forest Service Fire & Aviation Management, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and Pacific Northwest Research Station AirFire Team will host a 5 full-day training class for a select group of individuals on the current state of wildland fire air quality tools and how to fill the role of a Technical Specialist (THSP) Air Resource Advisor (ARA) during a wildland fire incident.

Wildfires can result in long exposure of the public to unhealthy or even hazardous levels of smoke.  Addressing smoke and air quality impacts is becoming a routine expectation by the public, air regulators and health agencies in many recently impacted locations and has been recognized as a specific wildfire incident management team function. Smoke has long-range and local impacts to cities and towns, and adversely affects public health, the health and safety of fire personnel, and transportation corridors, creating a need for timely, science-based smoke information on wildland fires. The position is needed to assess and predict short and long-term smoke effects, establish monitors, and summarize observational data, and communicate that information, plus promote ways to reduce potential exposure of both the public and fire personnel.  This information is provided to state and local air quality and health officials, as well as directly to the public, agency administrators, and Incident Management Team.  The ARA’s are a critical part of the interagency Wildland Fire Air Quality Response Program led by the Forest Service.  In recent years there has been hundreds of ARA assignments across the country.


 Participants are selected by class organizers based on:

The candidate’s potential for development into a qualified ARA is a consideration. The many facets of diversity will also be considered during selection.

The goal of the class is to provide the trainee with a set of common skills and a mutual understanding of what an Air Resource Advisor does when on a wildfire assignment. We do not use  a task book for the ARA position,  students who successfully complete the class are assessed on trainee assignments in the field using set operational criteria to ensure readiness for subsequent lead ARA assignments. There is a supporting position description for an ARA within the annual NWCG FSH 5109.34 Guidance for Fire Casual Hires (the THSP-ARA is classified as an AD-J rate).

An official letter noting completion of the training session is available for employee documentation. Participation in this training allows individuals to demonstrate agency and personal commitment to serve as an ARA and provides the individual with documented training in computer smoke dispersion models, interpretation of smoke monitor data and equipment set-up, communication and messaging tools, and overall context for serving as an ARA. 

On the Job Training:

Upon completion of the pre-work and the in-person class, individuals should plan for a full 14-day training assignment on a wildfire incident to be completed the same year, as dispatch opportunities to wildfires allow.  The first assignment will be as a trainee and is critical step to becoming a qualified ARA.  ARA trainees should expect to do two-full 14-day trainee assignments prior to becoming a qualified ARA, with a second assignment the following year after taking the course. In some rare instances, depending on background, experience and performance as a trainee, and duration and type of first assignment, some trainees may become fully qualified after one assignment, however most individuals require additional training assignments to develop skills and confidence in the role. The IWFAQRP leadership will work with the trainee to ensure readiness for the assignment as a trainee and later as a lead ARA when it is appropriate and will result in a successful deployment.  

Upon class completion, assessment of an individual’s skill and capability will be determined through discussion with the Program Leader to facilitate trainee assignments with specific trainers who can build skills and experience mutually determined to be needed to be a lead ARA.

Expectations:

Assignment to a wildfire as an Air Resource Advisor is a full-time commitment on a temporary basis.  Participation in the training should be done with direct endorsement of your supervisor for future training and ARA assignments. It will help if you ensure that any supervisor permission process is set before the dispatch call. You will be responsible to confirm that THSP is on your Incident Qualification Card (Red Card) after successful completion of the training.  Posting periods of availability using the appropriate calendar is necessary for dispatch by the Program Leader.  When posted as “available”, it is expected that a state of readiness is maintained including availability by cell phone over weekends and after-hours. Equipment and personal gear should be ready to go in short order especially if wildfire activity is high.

Being an ARA is non-arduous but requires the ability to be in the field working long hours (up to 16-hour days) for weeks at a time (up to 14 days with potential for extension to 21 continuous days with agreement of all parties). Work is typically conducted in field conditions with sleeping arrangements in a tent in ambient noisy conditions. Travel days are in addition to a 14-day assignment, so individuals should plan on 16 days away from home. ARA duties require the physical ability to transport and deploy smoke monitors, sometimes in remote locations. Please assess your commitment to the job at hand on an emergency incident before applying.

Posting Smoke Outlooks, assignment files/reports/documentation and an after-assignment review to a shared workspace is expected of all ARAs and trainees so the community can learn as a group. The program is dynamic and developing, so there is a need for ARAs to participate in continuing education opportunities where changes to smoke models and tools (among other topics) can be learned and discussed. Continuing education typically occurs throughout the year through bi-weekly video calls, webinars, and the positing of other materials to the ARA community. 


How to Apply:

Please send a resume or alternatively an outline indicating pertinent experience along with the supervisor support noted above (letter or email) to Pete Lahm (peter.lahm@usda.gov). 



Qualifications and Selection Process:

The Program Leadership will assess all candidates for the class. It is expected that the candidate’s employing agency or organization will bear all costs for the training class including transportation, lodging and meals.  There is no tuition for the training class.  All subsequent incident assignments are covered by the requesting agency using appropriate incident business management principles.  Successful ARA’s have come from many diverse backgrounds including meteorology, fire behavior analysts, public affairs, air quality specialists and other disciplines.  If you are unsure of your qualification for the role or if your agency has the needed qualification management and financial agreements in place, the Program Leader, Pete Lahm (602-432-2614 and peter.lahm@usda.gov) is available to discuss your submission of a resume. 


Requirements if Selected:

Successful candidates are expected to: 


The kickoff webinar will walk through the overall scope of the pre-work and the June class, set up further communications with ARA mentors, and answer initial questions.

All candidates should expect at least 40 to 60 hours of pre-work which may be a mix of independent on-line material and will include webinars. Prerequisite materials will need to be completed and documented at least two weeks before the class in June.

Interviews of candidates by the Program Leader or the selection committee during selection should be expected. Further pre-work may be tailored to the candidate to insure preparation for the role. 

Please see the class pre-work page IWFAQRP - Pre-Work (wildlandfiresmoke.net/ara/training/pre-work) for a listing and an example of expected pre-work. We anticipate some pre-work changes for 2024; these will be announced when candidates are chosen.  Failure to complete pre-work may lead to your spot being given to another on the waiting list who has completed all the pre-work. The focus of the class is on exercises and hands-on preparation, therefore pre-work is vital, especially for those with less fire experience or direct air quality background. Note: If your background does not include fire operations and/or emergency operations, prerequisites and pre-work will likely be about 10 days of material to be covered, with certificates of completion required prior to the class as noted above. 


June Class Logistics:

The training is June 24th through June 28th (location TBD) requiring travel the day before and possibly the day after depending on your home location. The official training hotel and reservation block with the local federal per diem rate will be sent to those who are selected.  All participants are expected to stay at the training hotel unless they are local, for reasons stated below. All efforts will be made to not require use of a rental car by students. There is no tuition for the class. Class officially begins at 0800 on June 24th and runs through 1600 on June 28th.  It is expected that Monday through Thursday will run from 0800 until 1730.

One feature of the class based on past success is the focused development of peer-to-peer relationships with other ARAs and trainers which is an invaluable network when on assignments.  Therefore, availability after each day’s class session for social times, such as meals, to develop these relationships is highly recommended, and staying at the assigned hotel is required unless you are local to our training site.  Evenings are not anticipated to require homework but all dinners are an opportunity for instructors and students to build peer-to-peer relationships and your participation is requested. 

 

Closing Date for Class Applications: 2/23/2024 addressed to Pete Lahm, Program Leader, at peter.lahm@usda.gov. Notification of acceptance into the class will occur no more than 21 days after the close of applications.