Meet Your Firefighting Instructor: Brandon Asher
Captions: Brandon (in blue) as hoist operator performing a rescue technique from one of their Huey Helicopters outside of Keene. Brandon in the field.
Wildfires are a threat and a reality of living in California, and we rely on the courage and competence of firefighters to help keep us safe from wildland fires. One of these wildfire warriors is Brandon Asher, who is an Air Operations Battalion Chief at Kern County Fire Department operating out of Keene Helibase. We are very proud to have him teaching the Firefighting Training class at Cerro Coso Community College’s Tehachapi Campus. Brandon taught the class last Spring semester and will be teaching the class again this Fall. Let’s get to know more about your Firefighting instructor, Brandon Asher.
Q: Tell us about yourself.
My name is Brandon Asher, and I’m 40 years old. I grew up here in Tehachapi and have lived in Tehachapi for a total of 22 years. I was active in sports, growing up playing football and baseball at Tehachapi High School, where I graduated in 2001. I've been married to my wife Sierra for the last 13 years, and we have three children: our daughters, Avery, 13, Brooke, 11, and our son Everett, 7. Sierra works locally as a Registered Nurse at Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley. We enjoy the community at the Tehachapi Vineyard Church, and we love to get outdoors by hiking, camping and traveling as a family.
Q: What is your education and professional background?
I have a AA degree in Fire Technology from Bakersfield College (some classes towards my degree were taken from Cerro Coso). And I have been working for 20 years with the Kern County Fire Department. I currently serve as the Air Operations Battalion Chief, where I oversee all operations with our two Huey helicopters and helitack crew in Keene, California.
Q: How did you get started as a wildland firefighter?
I got started as a wildland firefighter by attending Fire Technology courses at Bakersfield College and eventually getting into the BC FF1 Academy. That experience provided me an opportunity to apply and interview for a seasonal firefighting position with Kern County Fire Department. I worked three seasons with our bulldozers, handcrew and helitack crew before getting hired full-time.
Q: What do you enjoy about your career as a firefighter?
I enjoy serving the community and helping our seasonal firefighters get a full-time career in the fire service. I am passionate about firefighting aviation, hoist rescue and helitack firefighting operations.
Q: What inspired you to teach at Cerro Coso?
I really wanted to give back to our community, and help provide an opportunity for local residents who are interested in firefighting. We have quite a few Public Safety-working families in the Tehachapi area, and I believe there is a large group of people that have to travel to Bakersfield or Lancaster to take college firefighting courses. I’m hoping to build on this class and to expand more opportunities for local people. Personally, I would’ve enjoyed taking classes like this in Tehachapi when I was getting started instead of having to travel so far. I hope this is just the beginning for a fire program at Cerro Coso Tehachapi.
Q: What is your teaching experience?
Over a span of 20 years, I’ve been privileged to teach many classes through Kern Co. Fire and Bakersfield college. I have been an instructor for ground ladders in the Kern Co. Fire recruit Academy and during the Firefighter I Academy at Bakersfield College. I have also been the lead instructor for Basic Air Operations and Helicopter Crew Member, as well as instructing on the Kern Co. Fire Driver Operator cadre. I’ve enjoyed instructing both career firefighters and college students preparing for full time careers.
Q: Please describe your FFT course?
Students will be taught and receive certification in the following courses:
- Introduction to ICS (I-100)
- NIMS Introduction (IS-700)
- Firefighter Training (S-130)
- Human Factors on the Fireline (L-180)
- Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior (S-190)
Q: What should students expect from this course?
Students should expect a hands-on, interactive class that is taught from local firefighters here in Kern County. Students will get introduced to firefighting tools, tactics and equipment that is used here regionally to fight wildland fires. Students will also be given opportunities to work on their interview skills for fighting careers.
Q: What are some of the career prospects for students after taking this course?
After completing this course, the students will chave earned all the required Firefighter Type II certificates as required by NWCG (National Wildfire Coordinating Group) and CICCS (California Incident Command Certification System). FFT2 certificate holders have a basic understanding of wildland firefighting. Most wildland fire crews hire during the winter and early spring, so having the FFT2 certification will look great on a resume to apply and interview for wildland firefighting positions if they choose to do so.
Q: Last Spring semester of 2023 was the first FFT class in Tehachapi. How many students graduated?
Nine people graduated from that first class, and one of our students was hired as a seasonal firefighter and has been working for five months now. He applied and got hired from the class, which was really exciting.
Q: What words of wisdom do you have for students considering taking this course?
The Five P's: “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.” by James Baker, former Secretary of State.
The next Firefighting Training program at Cerro Coso Tehachapi will start on November 4th this Fall. If you have questions about how you can enroll, please call our campus at (661) 823-4986 to speak with a counselor. Come visit our campus at 126 S Snyder Ave, Tehachapi, CA 93561, just off Tehachapi Boulevard. Look for Cerro Coso signs.