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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."

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About the Author


Position: Senior News Reporter. Started with KTAR July 4, 1999.

Favorite spots in Arizona: Pinetop-Lakeside, Alpine, Greer.

Have covered some of the biggest stories in Arizona including nine of the top 10 largest wildfires in state history. The Wallow Fire in 2011 became the largest fire in state history. Rodeo-Chediski Fire in June 2002, which is the second largest fire in Arizona. Covered the Yarnell Hill Tragedy in June 2013 that left 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots dead.

Favorite movies: True Grit, both 1969 John Wayne classic and the remake with Jeff Bridges and Lonesome Dove.

Sports Teams: Washington State University Cougars, Texas Longhorns, The University of Montana Grizzlies.

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