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Arizona wildfire academy sees jump in recruits

PHOENIX — The weeklong Arizona Wildfire Academy in Prescott will begin Saturday just months after the worst loss of firefighters in state history.

Academy Coordinator Tony Sciacca said they usually see about 60 to 65 people signing up to take the courses to become firefighters. This year’s number is approximately 100.

Sciacca said one of the factors is the Yavapai County Supervisors giving the Arizona Wildfire Academy $19,000 in the name of the fallen 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots to distribute to 24 fire departments to use for tuition at the academy.

Sciacca said the interest in this year’s academy is not just local. It’s worldwide. Australia is sending firefighters too.

“Mostly the signups are coming from the 13 western states but also from Florida, Maine, New York among other states,” he said. “Twenty-nine states are represented and the most I’ve seen before were 27 states.”

Sciacca said it’s not just the young people signing up to become firefighters or just to learn more about wildfire.

“It’s interesting working with the Yavapai County Sheriff’s (Office) and others who staff roadblocks and carry out evacuations during fires are actually taking classes to better understand wildfires and the people who fight them.”