A firefighting crew of military veterans based in the Sacramento area battled a dozen fires in California and Nevada last summer.The Bureau of Land Management trained the Folsom Lake Hand Crew and used the crew for fire suppression and fuels management for the 2013 fire season.
The veterans’ crew program started in 2012 as a new program for BLM focused on providing firefighting jobs for veterans. BLM fire managers
said it proved to be extremely successful both years. Crew members will be recruited for a third season.
Based on extreme drought conditions, fire managers expect the coming season to be a busy one for the crew. The crew was made up of 16 military veterans who served in the Army, Air Force or Marines, in addition to five experienced fire personnel who led the crew. Crew members have served in Iraq and Afghanistan in many positions including combat medics and snipers. Three of the veterans who were in the crew last year returned and others have taken other firefighting jobs.
The goal of the program was to provide an additional firefighting resource for the current fire season and beyond, both locally and nationally. Second, this crew provides an opportunity for veterans to get jobs, gain skills, and hopefully become interested in employment with the BLM or other federal agencies in fire or other land management areas.
For two years now, fire managers have seen a vast improvement from early to late season, in crew capability and skills, such that by late fire season, the crew has been certified as Type II IA. Depending on the time of year in their incident deployments, the crew continues to be used in a variety of situations including initial attack and large fire assignments, covering the spectrum of operational activities, such as line construction, burning out and mopping up.
The crew has evolved to become a significant asset to the Central California District fire program, such that it has been ordered and prepositioned many times to meet district and statewide BLM fire coverage needs and suppression needs, particularly when the Central California District Hotshot Crew is assigned off district or out of state.
In all, the crew provided a valuable firefighting resource and had a very successful safety record with only minor reportable injuries and illnesses.