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Students learn the science behind combatting wildfires through hands-on learning

Students getting training with wildfire response
Posted at 1:34 AM, Apr 05, 2024

APACHE JUNCTION, AZ. (KGUN) — While the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management was preparing agencies for the state’s wildfire season earlier this week…

They were also teaching a younger generation aspiring to pursue a career in wildland firefighting.

"We’re learning all about putting our hands-on experience to our wildland training," said Hailey Mattingly, just one from a group of students learning what it takes to become a wildland firefighter.

The senior at Sunrise Senior High School said she's wanted "to be a firefighter since I was in eighth grade."

If Mattingly sticks to her dreams of one day helping fight wildfires across Arizona, she would be among just ten percent of women who enter the profession, according to the National Forest Foundation.

So I asked her if that stat ever bothered her, and while she admitted at times it makes her feel small, she also said it comes down to mindset.

"I believe at the end of the day, when it comes to your heart, your mind, and your willingness to learn and get stronger, we can do just as much as all the men can do."

Developing a strong mind is just one of the many intangible skill sets instructor and fire captain Keyhan Tabak instills in students who take the course. Skills he says can be carried over into whatever direction life takes them.

"This is not for everybody. You may want to choose a different life path," he said. "But the leadership, the qualities, the integrity, the stuff you learn here, you can take that and use it in your day-to-day life."

For Mattingly, who says she plans to get more hands-on experience this summer, she offered encouraging words to other young girls with similar aspirations.

"Go with your heart; your dreams could come true. Just do your research and get in it."