Undaunted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Empire-Sauk Chapter delivered its March 28, 2020 basic burn crew training workshop online. Teachers Rob Baller, Andy Sleger and Scott Fulton, together with moderator Grace Vosen, utilized Zoom to present the 6-hour program to 31 students, including a number from a Dane County Parks volunteer training class which had been cancelled.

Scott Fulton teaching the Empire-Sauk Chapter online burn class.  Photo by Karen Agee


The class was based on the standard TPE burn training program developed by Rob Baller several years ago to meet the training requirements under TPE’s Burn Policy for new volunteer burn crew members. The program, which conforms with guidelines from the Wisconsin Prescribed Fire Council, includes sections on Fire Ecology, Fire Influences, Burn Techniques, Safety, Crew Assignments, Burn Plans and Equipment. Several videos are also used to illustrate fire behavior, including an excellent drone video of a complete prescribed burn conducted by TPE volunteers and staff at the Pleasure Valley Easement in 2018. The teaching team also developed a post-class quiz and feedback survey, presented to the students as an online survey using TPE’s NationBuilder website and database platform. Initial feedback has been very positive.

One challenge using Zoom was how to best receive and address questions from the participants. We decided to mute everyone except the presenters and use the Zoom Chat window for questions. This was highly successful – there was a good flow of questions, some of which were addressed immediately with others held to a question period at the end of each section. Interestingly, some of the participants chimed in with a great deal of additional information and discussion. This kind of rich interaction among the participants was unexpected but certainly welcome. Unfortunately, the online format did not allow us to do our normal hands-on demonstration of equipment and practice session with ignition and suppression, but we hope to conduct those sometime this fall.

Thanks to everyone involved – both teachers and students – for making this a success!