Tamara Dierks – state training officer with the Department of Agriculture’s Wildland Fire Division
What exactly do you do?
I oversee the statewide Wildland Fire Training and Incident Qualification System (IQS) program.
Its purpose is to ensure that all State of South Dakota employees and cooperators adhere strictly to and maintain the nationally adopted wildland fire standards. These standards are set forth by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) and Incident Command System (ICS) for wildland fire training and qualifications. If these standards are not adhered to, it would result in the loss of qualifications and reputation, and in effect, the loss of resources available to fight wildland fires both locally and nationally.
What are your responsibilities?
I ensure that division employees and cooperators are qualified for the positions they hold, by providing guidance and training opportunities. This includes managing the task book program — a performance-based written evaluation system for all state, volunteer and career firefighters. Firefighters cannot advance in qualification without completing this process. These trainings and qualifications are tracked through IQS — a web database.
I also coordinate, support, and host individual trainings following NWCG national standards for instructors and course requirements. Along with individual classroom trainings, we also use the academy concept to provide low-cost centrally located options for students.
I am accountable for maintaining the wildland fire supply cache and mobile supply trailer, which provides restock capabilities to agencies and cooperators after a fire. This immediately supports local fires with the necessary supplies — hoses, firing devices, etc. If we had to order supplies, it would take multiple days for delivery, which would directly impact the suppression efforts of firefighters.
I was appointed as the regional representative on the Rocky Mountain Coordinating Group (RMCG) training committee. The RMCG training committee provides a coordinated interagency approach to fire and aviation management training within the Rocky Mountain Geographic Area (SD, WY, CO, NE, KS). We also maintain the regional priority trainee program, which allows trainee firefighters to be deployed to fire assignments and receive a quality training experience. Being deployed as a trainee is a privilege, and this program supports those who are most dedicated.
What is one of the more interesting aspects of your job?
My collateral duties include maintaining fire and overhead support qualifications. This allows me to be part of a regional incident management team in the logistics section where I have earned my Ground Support Unit Leader position. Through this, I have traveled nationally to wildfires, in many locations from Washington to North Carolina. It has been interesting to meet emergency responders who have different backgrounds. And, I have enjoyed seeing some of America’s best backcountry!
What is one of the more difficult aspects of your job?
There are stringent standards for wildland fire qualifications and training, to provide for the safety of incident personnel. These standards are constantly evolving and critical. Communicating and upholding these updates efficiently to our constituents across the state is very challenging. It is rewarding to assist in support opportunities for firefighter advancement.
(Editor’s note) According to Lindy Geraets, South Dakota Department of Agriculture, Tamara Dierks has earned the ‘exemplary employee’ title. “Each quarter, employees nominate co-workers for the award. Nominations are reviewed by division directors, and Secretary Kim Vanneman selects the exemplary employee,” said Garaets.