FIRE: A Fire Crew Made Up Of Veterans

dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News

Folsom Lake Veterans’ Crew. BLM photo.

By Jennifer Myslivy & Erin McDuff

It just makes sense to match our veterans’ skills with wildland firefighting. Many of the skills that our veterans have learned in the military can be applied to wildland firefighting, including teamwork and decisive leadership, risk mitigation and management, logistics and emergency medicine.

The Bureau of Land Management launched a Veteran Fire Crews program in 2012 to provide more jobs for veterans while benefiting from their vast experience and increasing the number of wildland firefighters available during our increasingly severe wildfire seasons.

The Folsom Lake Veterans’ Crew in California combines military veterans with seasoned wildland firefighters to form this type 2 initial attack hand crew, which is responsible for constructing fire lines while also capable of separating into smaller squads to conduct initial wildfire suppression activities.

This crew provides an opportunity for veterans to learn about the wildland fire management field and gain critical skills that will prepare them for a full career in wildland firefighting.

Meet Conell McKinney

Conell McKinney, Folsom Lake Veterans’ Crew. Joe Bradshaw, BLM.

An Army veteran from Santa Clarita, California, Conell McKinney served in the infantry.
He now works as a wildland firefighter with the Folsom Lake Veterans’ Crew. He explained that the Army taught him self-discipline, which helped him transition to wildland firefighting. It also helped him understand how to work in difficult environments.

His advice to others interested in wildland firefighting was “Train hard.” The work is like nothing you’ve done before!”

Meet Roger Hooper

Roger Hooper, Folsom Lake Veterans’ Crew. Joe Bradshaw, BLM.

During the 2021 fire season, the Folsom Lake Veterans’ Crew trained 200 active-duty Army soldiers stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord who were dispatched to assist with wildfire suppression operations.

Roger Hooper is a veteran of the infantry and a crew member from Nevada City. He noticed that the soldiers had many military skills that helped them transition to firefighting. These included hard work, discipline and the ability to remain calm in difficult situations.

When asked for advice for those interested in wildland firefighting, Hooper said “Maintain good physical shape and apply for a variety of fire jobs because there is one out there that you will enjoy!”

Meet Jaime Velasquez

Jaime Velasquez is a crewmember from Sacramento, California. He is a National Guard veteran and was a water purification specialist. He came to the Bureau of Land Management with prior firefighting experience from when his National Guard unit was activated by the state to fight wildfires in 2014.

Left: Jaime Velasquez serving in the National Guard. Jamie Velasquez. Right: Jamie Velasquez, serving as a member of the Folsom lake Veterans’ Crew. Photo by Joe Bradshaw (BLM).

During the Joint Base Lewis-McChord deployment this season, Velasquez enjoyed seeing how motivated they were to learn the job and the opportunity to hear some of their stories and experiences.

Firefighting Job Opportunities for Veterans

Are you a veteran, or do you know a veteran, who is looking for a new, exciting career? Wildland fire is a great career choice for anyone looking to be challenged, get outdoors, travel, have adrenaline rushes, and serve the greater good.

The Interior Department will be hiring for hundreds of wildland management positions this fall. These positions are available all across the country and new ones are added daily on usajobs.gov.

You can learn more about working in wildland fire on our website. Before you start on an application, check out firejobs.doi.gov, along with these pro tips and video tutorials on how to apply.

This is not your typical job.

The Folsom Lake Veterans’ Crew at the Dixie Fire in California, 2021. Joe Bradshaw, BLM.

Jennifer Myslivy is a public affairs specialist with the Bureau of Land Management at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

Erin McDuff is a public affairs specialist with the Office of Wildland Fire.

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