The Best in the West: The Top Fire Instructors

Graduates of the fire science programs in the West help to cover a huge swath of land—much of which is known for its wildfires. Students there should want to learn from the very top instructors. That’s why we’ve created a list of the best in the field, known for their education, rank, reputation, and more.

Carl Smith Colorado Mountain College

Smith has previously served with the Carbondale Fire Dept., Glenwood Springs Fire Dept., Aurora Dire Dept., and the Sunlight Ski Patrol. He specializes in training for woodland fires, emergency medical services and incidents involving hazardous materials.

Dennis Dodt Phoenix College

Program director at Phoenix College, Chief Dodt is a retired Battalion Chief from the Phoenix Fire Department. Formerly, he served as Assistant Director of the Arizona Office of Homeland Security.

Einar Jensen South Metro Fire Rescue Authority

Jensen came to South Metro following service with Evergreen Fire Rescue as a fire inspector and public information officer. He is affiliated with Fire & Life Safety Educators of Colorado.

Frank T. Cardinale City College of San Francisco

Cardinale joined the Administration of Justice/Fire Science faculty at CCSF in 2009. He earned Bachelor of Science in Occupational Studies - Vocational Arts at California State University, Long Beach.

Hugh Connor Utah Fire And Rescue Academy

Under Connor's leadership, The Utah Fire & Rescue Academy at Utah Valley University has been recognized as Best of State for public safety for three straight years. The school has a wildland firefighting component, winter fire school and certification courses.

James Michael Connors Fire Science Department City College of San Francisco

Connor served 32 years on the San Francisco Fire Department, retiring as Captain. As an educator, he brings experience in roles as an engine officer, company commander, safety officer, wildland firefighter, and recruit training captain.

Janet Barentson California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

Barentson was appointed Chief Deputy Director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in 2012. She has 25 years of public service in public safety and had served as CAL FIRE's Deputy Director of Management Services.

Jeff Buchanan City of North Las Vegas

Buchanan was appointed as Acting Fire Chief in July 2012, having joined the North Las Vegas Fire Department in 2001. He has a master's degree in business administration from Touro University International.

Jeff Force Pikes Peak Community College

Force has EMS experience since 1985 as an EMT, paramedic, and educator. He has been Program Director for the EMS Program at Pikes Peak Community College since 2004.

Jim Gosz University of Idaho, College of Natural Resources

Research professor, Dr. Gosz is currently Chairman of the Long Term Ecological Research Network. He has four decades of experience in environmental science.

Jim Hitch Division of Professional-Technical Education

Hitch began his career as a volunteer firefighter/EMT with the Moscow Idaho Volunteer Fire Department, where he served for 17 years. He currently serves as Fire Service Technology Training Coordinator at the state fire academy.

Michael J. Jenkins Quinney College of Natural Resources, Utah State University

Jenkins completed his Master's Degree in Forest Science in 1978. He specializes in the teaching and research of wildland fire science.

Nicol P. Juratovac City College of San Francisco

Capt. Juratovac has been with the CCSF faculty since 2003 and is an adjunct faculty member with the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, MD. She has served as Firefighter/EMT with the San Francisco Fire Department since joining in 1997.

Ronald Wakimoto The University of Montana

Dr. Wakimoto, Professor of Forest Fire Science, has traveled to Asia in support of the USFS International Programs, leading train-the-trainer courses. He serves on the Committee on Accreditation for the Society of American Foresters.

Timothy E. Sendelbach City of North Las Vegas

Former Chief of Training for Savannah (GA) Fire & Emergency Services, Sendelbach is Assistant Fire Chief, City of North Las Vegas. He is past-president of the International Society of Fire Services Instructors