A firefighting crew of military veterans based in the Sacramento area battled 17 fires in three states this summer.
The Bureau of Land Management trained the 20-person Folsom Lake Hand Crew and used the crew for fire suppression and fuels management. The veterans’ crew was assembled as a two-year trial and BLM fire managers said it proved to be extremely successful in its first year.
The crew supplied needed assistance as drought conditions in the West brought increased fire activity. In the 2012 fire season, 51,222 fires burned 8.9 million acres compared to 6.6 million acres in an average year. In California alone, 7,607 fires burned 853,000 acres.
After completing eight days of initial training, the crew was almost immediately dispatched to fight the Mill Fire on the Mendocino National Forest.
The goal of the trial program was to provide an additional firefighting resource for this fire season and beyond, both locally and nationally. Secondly, this crew provides an opportunity for veterans to get jobs, gain skills, and consider career employment with the BLM or other federal agencies in fire or other land management areas. Already one crew member was hired for the Monterey Hotshot Crew on the Los Padres National Forest and others have been contacted regarding potential jobs.
In all, the trial exceeded expectations. The crew provided a valuable firefighting resource and
had a very successful safety record with only minor reportable injuries and illnesses.