National Park Service (NPS) Division of Fire and Aviation Management has a new chief. Chris Wilcox, former chief for Fire Management with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), was named May 7 as the new chief for the position, previously held by Bill Kaage, who retired last summer. Chris is the first to hold the position as a member of the Senior Executive Service (SES).
Chris started in 1993 as a seasonal with the USFS Heber Hotshots in east-central Arizona. His qualifications included squad boss, saw boss, sawyer, and engine crewmember. Chris earned a BS in biology from Northern Arizona University in 1997 while still working seasonally for the USFS. In 1999 he detailed to the National Forests of North Carolina as a hotshot squad boss. In 2001, returning to Arizona, he hired on as the superintendent of the Heber IHC.
His first position with Fish and Wildlife began in 2003 when he was named assistant zone FMO for the state of Arizona. In that position, he coordinated with refuge managers to integrate fire management into the refuges’ goals and objectives. He next was hired as zone FMO in New Mexico, where he established a statewide FWS youth education and hunt program — with an emphasis on children with disabilities and terminal illnesses. He conducted the first prescribed fire in the White Sands Missile Range under the Department of Defense and served as developer and facilitator of the Dude Fire staff ride. Chris also was selected to participate in the Australia / New Zealand Fire Management Study Tour.
In 2009 Chris moved to NIFC in Boise and served in several FWS positions, including national fire operations program leader, the deputy branch chief for Operations, and then as chief for the Branch of Fire Management. As chief, he has served on various leadership groups, including the Interior Fire Executive Council, the Fire Management Board, the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group, and the NWCG Executive Board. He received the DOI Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his leadership of the wildland firefighting community during the global pandemic; he also coordinated an agreement with the Department of Labor that resulted in hiring 40 permanent apprentices to promote diversity within the next generation of FWS fire leadership. Chris also established a mental health and wellness position within the FWS Branch of Fire Management.
Chris lives in Boise with his wife Triniti and two daughters, Alyssa and Tristin. Chris and his family spend their free time rafting, camping, and enjoying other outdoor pursuits.