Featured Interview: Joseph Dilley

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1. The last time we talked with you was in January 2020. How have things changed since then in regards to the Fire Services Program?

The FSLM program itself has not changed much, however; our approach has become more a holistic approach. Our program at Pierce College is still attempting to fill needs of the fire service as a whole. The FSLM has added courses that are exam and certification preparation courses that are being ran through the Community and Continuing Education program. There were two courses added to the course catalog to develop a pathway for firefighters to attend our program through the Washington State Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee. Currently, the FSLM program is awaiting approval to provide education through the Washington Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee. Once approved this will add another element to the holistic approach, we are attempting in the mission of filling needs within the fire service for education. This approach has started to pay off, in only our second year of the Bachelor of Applied Science, the Pierce College FSLM was ranked sixth in the nation for online fire science degree. This ranking put our program ahead of big schools in the fire industry. This was led by the Pierce College’s administration’s willingness to branch out and try this holistic approach and jumping on opportunities that were presenting themselves to fill those gaps of education within the fire service.

a. What your new goals for the Program?

The FSLM program’s goal has not changed is to be THE education program Washington State firefighters attend to complete their higher education. Also, being ranked first in the nation would not be bad either for the online bachelors of fire science. In all seriousness we are striving to fill the needs of education in the fire service. In simple terms, keep evolving with the fire service to meet the fire service’s needs.

2. Our state is expected to have a rough wildfire season. How can people be better prepared for wildfire season?

People do not need to be forestry or wildland fire experts. The best way to be prepared is understand the concept of defensible space. Defensible space is the buffer you create between a building on your property and the grass, trees, shrubs, or any wildland area that surround it. This space is needed to slow or stop the spread of wildfire and it helps protect your home from catching fire— either from embers, direct flame contact or radiant heat.

The NFPA also has a great public education program called Firewise. The national Firewise USA® recognition program provides a collaborative framework to help neighbors in a geographic area get organized, find direction, and take action to increase the ignition resistance of their homes and community and to reduce wildfire risks at the local level. Any community that meets a set of voluntary criteria on an annual basis and retains an “In Good Standing Status” may identify itself as being a Firewise® Site.

3. Are there additional training and education that firefighters need to obtain in order to be prepared for fire season?

There are differences between wildland and structural firefighters. The certifications are different and require different trainings. There are a lot of structural firefighters certified to fight wildland fires. Firefighters receive training to the level of qualification they hold, must pass a task book for that level of qualification and complete continuing education annually. The annual trainings include lessons learned on major incidents from the past to reinforce and educate firefighters.

4. How important is it for firefighters to continue their education and partake in additional training opportunities?

The world is constantly evolving and changing, so is the equipment, tactics, strategies, and knowledge in the fire service. The fire service constantly must change to meet the needs and demands of the community it serves. This is where education and additional training opportunities comes in to play. To meet the needs of the community as it evolves there needs to be training, and education. The only constant is change, and we in the fire service must gain as much knowledge through training and education as we can to keep up with these changes.

Education and training are extremely important for the safety of firefighters and the community. Attending training or completing education only makes the
firefighters, no matter the level, more aware of safety aspects within the fire service. When you combine the safety aspects and the needs of the community, you will have a more effective and efficient fire service.

5. How has COVID-19 impacted the Fire Services industry?

COVID has had many impacts of the fire service. Obviously, the impacts are going to change throughout the counties, state and nation depending on where you are located. But to name a few, there have been a lot of firefighters retiring. There have been shortages of firefighters due to quarantines, not so much now but in the beginning of COVID. On the EMS side of the fire service, firefighters have been conducting more of a public health/community health role, by conducting COVID testing and administering vaccines. The state expanded the scope of practices for EMT’s, AEMT’s and Paramedics to accomplish this. The fire service has also had a more increased role of emergency management, by the increased roles of the incident management teams, beyond just wildland fires. There were also changes in how we respond to calls and what PPE to wear and when. This is also based on locale. These are just some examples, I know there are many more.

6. Have you read about HB 1168 that was sent to Governor Inslee to sign into law? The subject of the Bill is about the concerning long-term forest health and the reduction of wildfire dangers.

I have read HB 1168 and have had a few discussions with employees of DNR about it as well.

a. What do you think is causing the increase in wildfires in our State?

I am not an expert of wildland fires or forestry. There are some things that I feel are contributing to the increase of wildland fires in our State. Not in any order, population expansion, lack of forest management, rising temperatures, extreme weather, and more wildland urban interfaces. When you combine these elements, I believe you will begin to get an increase in the amount of and severity of wildland fires.

7. What are the benefits to being in the Fire Services industry?

It is the best job in the world. What other job do you get challenged everyday with something new, build a second family, and know that what you are doing makes a difference in your community?

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