U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced last week that travel company Expedia donated $50,000 dollars to Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster response organization, to fund wildland firefighting training in 2017. The funding will provide wildland fire training courses for Team Rubicon volunteers, so they can become certified as wildland firefighters and work on federally managed wildfire incidents.
In April 2015, the Department of Interior and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) formed a partnership with Team Rubicon because many of the skills veterans learn in the military translate to wildland firefighting, such as teamwork; decisive leadership; risk mitigation and management; logistics and emergency medicine. Team Rubicon volunteers trained as wildland firefighters have responded to wildfires in Alaska, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, and most recently, the wildfire in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
“This generous donation from Expedia will allow us to train even more veterans as wildland firefighters, bolstering our wildland firefighting response capabilities across the country. In a time of climate change and thus, longer, more intense fire seasons, we are constantly looking to further our partnerships, such as this one, to expand our wildland firefighting force,” says Chuck Russell, BLM’s Veteran Coordinator.
The BLM plans to hold wildland firefighting training sessions for Team Rubicon members in California, Texas, Florida, Idaho, Washington, Colorado and Washington D.C. throughout the next year. The sessions educate Team Rubicon members in wildland fire suppression tactics, including communication techniques, fireline construction, equipment operation, and other critical wildland firefighting skills.
By engaging veterans in disaster response, Team Rubicon seeks to provide them with a sense of purpose, community, and identity often missing following their military service. Since two Marines founded Team Rubicon in response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the organization has responded to over 160 floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and other severe weather damage, helping disaster survivors all over the globe.
“It just makes sense to match our veterans’ skills with wildland firefighting,” said Russell. “Team Rubicon volunteers already understand critical aspects of the wildland fire program, such as our Incident Command System, and veterans have the work ethic we need in wildland firefighting. Expedia’s donation will not only allow us to train qualified veterans as wildland firefighters, the money will provide opportunities for veterans to pursue wildland firefighting jobs, which are often a great opportunity for post-military service careers.”