MARQUETTE - Northern Michigan University will offer a new wildland firefighting minor starting in the university's 2013 Fall semester.
The new minor - offered by the university's Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department - consists of 23 credits and offers both in-class and hands-on instruction.
The courses will be taught by experienced wildland firefighters.
Firefighters pose in front of charred ground from last year’s Duck Lake Fire. (Journal file photo)
The course listing includes a course on wildland fire chain saws, wildland fire field experience, portable pumps and water use and intermediate fire behavior, to name a few.
The new certification, offered through the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, comes on the heels of one of the worst years for wildfires in Michigan's history.
According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, there were 495 wildfires in Michigan in 2012, compared to 199 in 2011.
Of those 2012 fires, the Lower Peninsula saw 381 wildfires that burned a total of 2,279.4 acres.
The Upper Peninsula saw 114 wildfires that burned 21,527.3 acres - including the Duck Lake Fire, which burned through more than 21,000 acres in Luce County, destroyed 136 structures and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to put at bay.
The Duck Lake Fire - sparked by a lightning strike - was the third worst wildfire in Michigan history, and the largest in more than three decades.
First spotted during the afternoon of May 23 and fanned by heat and high winds in the following days, the Duck Lake Fire quickly crowned and began rampaging through the jack pine forests about 14 miles north of Newberry. It continued burning through hundreds of acres in a matter of days and smoldered on for several more months, burning underneath the ground.
A total of 300 people worked to contain the massive blaze.
According to the DNR, 8 percent of wildfires in Michigan were caused by lightning, yet lightning-caused wildfires were responsible for 87 percent of the acreage burned by wildfires.
For more information on Northern's new wildland firefighting minor, visit NMU's website at www.nmu.edu/hper.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.