State Fire School

Nicky Berg, a firefighter with the Grenora Rural Fire Department, rappelled down a wall in the State Fair Center in Minot Saturday afternoon.

Berg, a 15-year firefighter, said she loves to rappel.

Berg is among 811 firefighters in North Dakota attending the 59th Annual State Fire School presented by the North Dakota Firefighter’s Association.

Rob Knuth, training director for the North Dakota Firefighter’s

Association and assistant chief of the Minot Rural Fire Department, said the majority of North Dakota fire departments are represented at the fire school.

Actually, he said there are more than 1,000 people at fire school which includes firefighters’ family members who can observe some of the classes.

Knuth said family members’ attendance at the school helps them learn more about what the firefighters do.

Knuth is in charge of planning and coordinating the fire school each year. This year’s event began Thursday.

At State Fire School, Knuth said firefighters are taught everything from basic skills to advanced training.

“Basically, we start off with basic firefighter skills where they learn ropes, ladders, hose, PPE (personal protective equipment), teach them how to handle and roll hose, how to take care of ladders and climb ladders,” Knuth said. They also get more in depth training.

The school provides specialized training including rope rescue, rappelling and how to operate emergency vehicles.

“A lot of our younger firefighters especially have no experience driving big tanks driving a truck with 3,000 gallons of water is totally different than driving your mother’s Suburban,” he said.

He said vehicle extrication is among the most popular classes.

A CPR and first aid class taught by Minot Community Ambulance staff and classes on wildland firefighting are among the sessions offered at the school.

The school also has sessions pertaining to the oil field. The Responding to Oil-field Emergencies class gives the firefighters information and skills they will need if they are called out to an emergency situation.

The Minot Rural Fire Department’s crude oil boil-over simulator also is used to show firefighters what they could be dealing with in the oil field.

“We’re not trying to teach them how to become oil-field firefighters,” Knuth said. He said the intent is to provide the firefighters with enough knowledge that they can make a rational decision on how to proceed with an incident.

The school offers a total of 46 classes 13 entry level classes, 25 intermediate level classes and eight advanced or officer level classes.

There are 43 instructors, the majority of them from North Dakota fire departments.

Workforce Safety and Insurance is providing funds to cover some of the costs of the fire school, including the firefighters’ registration fees up to a specific number of hours of training.

Knuth said they are very appreciative of all the help the State Fair has given them in holding the fire school on the North Dakota State Fairgrounds, as well as those at the other sites in Minot where classes and training are held. He said the military also is helping with the school.

The fire school ends today.

The school will continue to be held in Minot for the next two years, Knuth said.