MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Auburn University will host the first national training program for wildland firefighters in the eastern U.S.

The Wildland Firefighter Apprenticeship Program has trained more than 2,000 apprentices to fight fires in California since 1989. Auburn University's Dixon Center is its first eastern training site.

The first academy of 48 firefighter apprentices graduated in early February. They learned how fire behaves and how to suppress it with hands-on field experience. The course also covered how to manage risks, make decisions under pressure and lead a team.

Firefighters are dispatched to wildfires in forests across the nation. These include Alabama's four national forests - Bankhead, Conecuh, Talladega and Tuskegee.

The next academy will be in March.