BLM creates new hotshot crew in Arizona

blm logoThe Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced today the creation of a new hotshot firefighting crew in southern Arizona. The establishment of the crew responds to a nationwide increase in wildfire activity and the need for additional skilled personnel. The crew will be stationed at Fort Huachuca thanks to a partnership between the BLM and U.S. Army.

Recruitment for the crew will emphasize the selection of military veterans, consistent with BLM’s national emphasis on bringing veterans into the wildfire workforce. The BLM’s long-term goal is for a crew made up entirely of veterans.

“Bringing a new elite firefighting unit into Southern Arizona will benefit the communities we serve and recognize the dual need for additional firefighting resources and quality employment for military veterans,” said BLM Arizona State Director Raymond Suazo.

The crew will be the only hotshot crew (also known as a Type 1 crew) in Southern Arizona and one of only 12 BLM hotshot crews nationwide. Hotshot crews are the most skilled and highly trained units among wildland fire personnel, meeting stringent requirements established by interagency fire managers and routinely engaged with the most complex wildfire incidents.

The crew will increase the availability of wildfire resources locally in Southern Arizona and at the national level. Proactive measures to prevent high severity fires, such as fuel treatments and prescribed burns, will occur when the crew is not engaged with an active wildfire.

The BLM partnered with the U.S. Army at Fort Huachuca (map) to provide barracks space to the crew through a lease.

“We are proud to provide a base for the new BLM hotshot crew. Our support is another way Fort Huachuca contributes to the safety and security of our community, Arizona and the nation,” said U.S. Army Garrison Fort Huachuca commander Col. Thomas A. Boone.

A nationwide evaluation of personnel needs completed by BLM Arizona and the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho led to the creation of the crew. 2015 marks another record-breaking wildlife season for the western United States with over eight million acres burned to date throughout the country. BLM continually evaluates the preparedness of the fire program and the ability to respond to wildfires threatening public land resources and surrounding communities.

The crew will be managed by the BLM Gila District. “We are thrilled to bring these benefits to the region and provide career paths for our firefighting community,” said Timothy Shannon, BLM Gila District manager.

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The BLM is advertising a job for the GS-9 Superintendent.

Thanks and a tip of the hat goes out to Chris, Tom, and Tom.

Name released of Pack Test victim

The Student Conservation Association has released the name of the person who became ill while taking a firefighter fitness test, the Pack Test, and passed away shortly thereafter. Below is the text of the SCS news release:

SCA mourns the loss of member Ian Haxton

With great sadness, SCA reports that Ian Haxton of Winchester, VA and a member of our Veterans Fire Corps, has passed away unexpectedly while serving at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in Sasabe, AZ.

The Veterans Fire Corps trains recent-era military veterans for careers in wildfire mitigation. Ian, a veteran of the US Army, was participating in a federal fire fighter pack test on Saturday, June 6, when he collapsed near the end of the course. Emergency medical teams on site for the exercise responded immediately. Regrettably, despite their best efforts, Ian died en route to a nearby hospital. Results of an autopsy are pending. Ian was 31.

Under the fire fighter pack test, individuals are required to complete a three mile course while wearing a 45-pound pack in 45 minutes. Ian entered into the Fire Corps program on May 17th, 2015.

SCA is providing all available support to his family, his corps mates, and our Fish and Wildlife partners. We are also cooperating with local authorities, and ask that you join us in keeping Ian and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

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The U.S. Fire Administration issued this information about the fatality:

The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) has received notice of the following firefighter fatality:

Name: Ian Haxton
Rank: Veteran Fire Corps Crewmember
Age: 31
Gender: Male
Status: Wildland Part-Time
Years of Service:  Pending
Date of Incident: 06/06/2015
Time of Incident: 0800hrs
Date of Death: 06/06/2015
Fire Department: Student Conservation Association – Veteran Fire Corps

Incident Description: Veteran Fire Corps Crewmember Haxton suffered a medical emergency and collapsed 200 yards from the finish line while participating in the Wildland Firefighter Work Capacity Test. Medical care was immediately rendered by local emergency medical responders who had been staged on-site for the test. Crewmember Haxton was transported to an Advanced Care Facility where he passed away from a nature and cause of injury still to be determined. At the time of the fatal incident, Haxton was serving at the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in Sasabe, AZ, preparing for a series of prescribed burns scheduled to take place at the Refuge.

Incident Location: Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in Sasabe, AZ

Tribute is being paid to Veteran Fire Corps Crewmember Ian Haxton at http://apps.usfa.fema.gov/ firefighter-fatalities/

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We send out our sincere condolences to the family, friends, and co-workers of Mr. Haxton.

The Veterans Fire Corps is hosted by the Student Conservation Association. More information about the program.

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged “Veterans Fire Corps”.

Colorado governor signs two wildfire-related bills

From the Durango Herald:

Gov. John Hickenlooper [of Colorado signed] two wildfire-related bills Tuesday in Durango.

[The bills were] the Veterans Fire Corps for Wildfire Fighting bill and the Wildfire Risk Reduction Grant Program, according to FireWise, a nonprofit group that seeks to reduce the risk of wildfires. Both bills were sponsored by State Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango.

The Veterans Fire Corps bill authorizes the state to spend money providing training to Veterans Fire Corps, resulting in more year-round firefighting capacity.

The Wildfire Risk Reduction Grant Program provides funding for hazardous fuels removal and equipment. FireWise and other groups received almost $777,000 in grant money in 2013-14.

Veterans train to be firefighters in the Black Hills

Wildfire Today has written previously about the Veterans Fire Corps which is training and employing military veterans in several western states. The Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota has also been participating in the program for the last two years and they sent us this information about their program.

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2013 Veteran Fire Corps team, Black Hills
2013 Veteran Fire Corps team, Black Hills National Forest. L to R: Alleyn Friedrich – Project Leader, Juan Rangel, Bryan Hardgrove, David Herbert, Preston Keough. USFS photo.

“Black Hills National Forest Hosts Veterans Fire Corps

Custer, SD – For the past two summers, the Black Hills National Forest has had veterans working side by side with firefighters and other forest employees as part of the Veterans Fire Corps program.

This summer, both Mystic and Hell Canyon Ranger Districts hosted these veteran teams. Each team has a project leader and 5 members.

This unique program, specifically for men and women who have served in the armed forces, is designed to prepare veterans for positions as wildland firefighters. The program is geared toward training veterans to protect public lands from the threat of wildfire. The program is operated as a partnership with the Student Conservation Association.

Tim Gurnett, from Omaha, Neb. is a Project Leader for the Arapaho National Forest in Colorado. He worked as a Project Leader on Hell Canyon Ranger District on the Black Hills National Forest last summer. Gurnett served in the Navy for five years and is now a member of the Naval Reserve. He is in his third year with the program and likes everything about it. “It is refreshing to be with people that have similar experiences and similar issues,” said Gurnett. “I love this kind of work and it is good to be around fellow veterans. It is good to talk together and work together and gives us something to be proud of again.” Gurnett is a senior at the University of Nebraska and is working on a double major in Environmental Studies and Criminal Justice. He hopes to land a Law Enforcement position with a land management agency such as the U.S. Forest Service.
Continue reading “Veterans train to be firefighters in the Black Hills”

Training for veterans to be become wildland firefighters

The programs that Wildfire Today told you about a year ago that train military veterans to become wildland firefighters appear to be increasing and are now grouped into a new organization called Veterans Fire Corps. Three programs — operating in California, Colorado, and Arizona —  build upon the knowledge, leadership experience, and training that men and women who served in the armed forces already possess, retraining them and refocusing their mission to protect our public lands from the threat of wildfire.

It consists of a three tiered Firefighter Leadership Development Program, providing incrementally more challenging experiences for program participants. It helps veterans transition to civilian life by leveraging their leadership experience to meet pressing conservation needs on public lands while providing job training for future employment in the wildland firefighting field.

Here are some quotes about the program from people that have been involved with the Veterans Fire Corps:

Lew Sovocool, former VFC leader and supervisor:

The work is tough and dirty but is purpose-driven, which I believe is very attractive to veterans. There’s also the excitement and adrenaline rush that pushed us toward the military. There is a sense of national service which all of us are proud to be a part of.

There’s a sense of teamwork and camaraderie that exists in wildland firefighting that is very similar to that which we all experienced in the military.

Ross Schumaker, former VFC leader:

With the combination of all the classes, contacts, and me being a badass, I have landed a job on a fire engine for the upcoming season and plan on making wildland firefighting my career.

We OWE our veterans for their service to our country. The least we can do is to give them training so that they can compete for jobs.

 

Thanks go out to Dick

BLM Fire Management Officer supports firefighting training for veterans

SCC fire training
In conjunction with the Southwest Conservation Corps, veterans are getting firefighting and fire mitigation training locally./Photo by Stephen Eginoire

On February 9 we covered a story about a training program for military veterans that is run by the the Southwest Conservation Corps, called the Veterans Green Corps. From what we’ve read, it appears to be an excellent program and a good fit for military personnel returning from war zones.

Today we heard from BLM San Juan Public Lands Fire Management Officer Shawna Legarza who pointed us toward another article about the SCC’s training program, this one specifically in Colorado. Normally, we would not post two similar articles on the same topic, but we thought that not only is this a great program that needs visibility and support, but this second article is very well written and is something that you will appreciate reading. We are posting the entire article below because there appear to be technical issues about viewing it at the Durango Telegraph site.

Four of the trainees from this local program will be working on U.S. Forest Service fire crews this summer.

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Dressed in forest-green trousers and heavy work boots, a young woman leans against a boulder on a wooded hillside. The sleeve of her yellow work shirt is rolled just to the point of revealing the sharp-edged tattoo gracing her skin. Black sunglasses hide her eyes.

After sidestepping a question two or three times, she looks away toward a stand of scrub oak and says, “I guess I’m doing this because there’s not much that I’ve seen in the normal working world that can compare to where we’ve been or offer the same level of challenge.”

She pauses. “This comes close.”

Sarah Castaneda served with the 82nd Airborne as a combat medic. Now she and the four other Iraq War veterans are training through the combined efforts of the Veterans Green Corps and the Southwest Conservation Corps to do fire mitigation and fight wildland fires. The group is currently finding its legs on the flanks of Animas Mountain, where they are learning the ropes of wildfire mitigation and firefighting techniques.

“It’s been a life-changing experience,” said Mike Bremer who was with the Army Infantry. “At fire camp, the training was incredible, and we’ve had great instructors. Everything has been so thorough.”
Continue reading “BLM Fire Management Officer supports firefighting training for veterans”