Wildland firefighting: NIMS and ICS training you need

There's a number of organizations that can help provide the required skills for you and your organization


One of the most questioned aspects of wildland fire training is the certification requirements for Incident Command System (ICS) and National Incident Management System (NIMS) certification. The basis for NIMS/ICS requirements is outlined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at this website.

The National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG)  clarified the wildland training requirements of NIMS/ICS last month, and has an easy-to-use chart.

ICS courses I-100 through 400 are available online at no cost from the National Fire Academy.

These courses meet the ICS/NIMS requirements for everyone, even those working through the wildland qualification system.

For private wildland fire contractors, this will meet your ICS needs. ICS-100 is also available for specialty areas (law enforcement, public works, etc.) at the FEMA Independent Study Program. This site also has the  I-200 course available as IS-200.b.

The NIMS program consists of the NIMS-700 and NIMS- 800 courses. For those agencies (Federal, State, County, Tribal, Local Fire Departments, etc.) that receive federal funding (i.e. grants,
wildland reimbursement, etc.) NIMS 700 is required.

All chief officers for those agencies need to complete NIMS 800. These courses are available here. Private wildland contractors are typically bound by state or local mutual aid requirements, thus must meet BOTH ICS and NIMS course requirements.

Remember, in the wildland, hazmat, and Urban Search And Rescue (USAR) world, there are other specific training requirements for specific positions in ICS.

One valuable tool to utilize as a reference, regardless of where you live and work, is the California ICS Field Operations Guide (FOG) or the National Wildfire Coordination Group site.

You may also contact your State or Regional Fire Training Coordinators or State Fire Marshal for other ICS/NIMS courses offered in your local area. Local Community College or Fire Academies may also offer the required ICS/NIMS courses.

For those interested in setting up their own on-site ICS training certification programs, there are several options.

  • National Fire Academy (NFA) Hand-Off Courses: States are authorized to work with the NFA to conduct certification courses locally through the State Fire Training Enfranchisement program. For more information visit www.usfa.fema.gov/nfa/sfte
  • National Wildfire Coordination Group (NWCG): Federal and State Fire Agencies may work with NWCG to deliver and certify a variety of wildland and ICS courses. For more information visit www.nwcg.gov. Contact your local Federal or State forest fire agency to participate in their training programs.
  • National Wildfire Suppression Association (NWSA): Private contractors and some local agencies join the NWSA and qualify instructors that meet the NWCG requirements. For non-Federal and State agencies that lack any other form of certification program, this is an excellent alternative. For more information visit www.nwsa.us.
  • California State Fire Training: California is one of several proactive states that provide online references for fire training. Specific areas addressed include:

o State Fire Training Home Page
o California Incident Command Certification System (CICCS) 
o Fire Instructor Data Base

Please note that there are other associations and state or local options and the references listed are only a small portion of the opportunities available nationwide.

The Incident Command System and National Incident Managements System are both valuable tools which greatly improve the coordination and control of all incidents including wildfires.

Every emergency response agency and private wildland fire contractor should understand these requirements and ensure proper certification of their personnel. ICS and NIMS save lives, use them every day to manage incidents and maintain your proficiency.

Until next time, stay safe! 

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