Air Resource Advisor Training Class
June 13 – June 17, 2022 in Boise, ID
Call for Applications – Due by 3/31/22
On June 13 through June 17, 2022, Forest Service Fire & Aviation Management, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and Pacific Northwest Research Station AirFire Team will host a 5-day training class in Boise 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 (Public Law 116-9, 2019). 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 2011, there were several dispatches of ARA’s to wildfire incidents in the US. In 2021, there were 113 dispatches to ten states.
Participants are selected by class organizers based on demonstrated ability in both science (i.e. meteorology, atmospheric science, fire behavior and air quality) and operational environments (fire and all- hazards emergency response). Documented supervisor and agency support for the training and future assignments as a trainee and then qualified ARA is another criteria. Availability to be dispatched to incidents across the U.S. as a trainee in the months following successful completion of the training class is also considered. The candidate’s potential for development into a qualified ARA is also a consideration. The many facets of diversity will also be considered.
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. Currently there is not an official task book for the ARA, although 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 which was used to justify the listing and recognition of the position 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.
The class is an important first step to qualifying as an ARA with the additional requirement that a full 14-day training assignment will be completed the same year as dispatch opportunities to wildfires allow. The first assignment will be as a trainee and it is a stepwise process to becoming a qualified ARA. Depending on background, experience and performance as a trainee, and duration and type of first assignment, additional training assignments may be required to develop skills and confidence in the role. The IWFAQRP Program Manager 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.
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 16 hour days for up to 14 days with potential for extension to 21 continuous days with agreement of all parties. Travel is not included in the count of days. It will require the physical ability to transport and deploy smoke monitors, sometimes in remote locations.
Posting Smoke Outlooks, assignment files/reports 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 through video calls, webinars and the positing of other materials to the ARA community.
Please send a resume or alternatively an outline indicating pertinent experience along with the supervisor support noted above (letter or email) to Pete Lahm (email@example.com).
Qualifications and Selection Process:
A team of ARAs and the Program Leader 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, the Program Leader, Pete Lahm (602-432-2614 and firstname.lastname@example.org) is available to discuss your submission of a resume.
Requirements if Selected:
Successful candidates are expected to: (1) virtually attend an initial kickoff two-hour webinar; (2) document prerequisites and complete pre-work before the June class; and (3) attend (in-person) the entire June 13-17 classroom session in Boise, Idaho.
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 any questions.
Prerequisite materials will need to be completed and documented at least two weeks before the class in June.
All candidates should expect at least 30-32 hours of pre-work which may be a mix of independent on-line material and will include webinars. Interviews of successful candidates by the Program Leader or the selection committee and further pre-work tailored to the candidate may be added at that time.
Please see the here for an example of expected pre-work. We anticipate some pre-work changes for 2022; 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.
The training is June 13 through June 17 in Boise, ID. The official training hotel and reservation block 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. A block of hotel rooms at the local federal per diem rate have been made available. All efforts will be made to not require use of a rental car by students. Class officially begins at 0800 on June 13 and runs through 1600 on June 17. 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 later. 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 Boise. 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 3/31/2022
Apply by 3/31/22 addressed to Pete Lahm, Program Leader, at email@example.com. Notification of acceptance into the class will occur no more than 14 days after the close of applications.