Rance Neighbors recognized for excellence in fire leadership

Hard hats off to Assistant Fire Management Officer Rance Neighbors for receiving BLM Wyoming’s 2023 Fire Management Leadership Award! Neighbors, stationed in Worland, is the fuels program manager for the Wind River/Bighorn Basin District.

A person wearing sunglasses and hardhat takes a selfie in a forest with an excavator digging fireline behind him.
Rance and his crew construct fireline on assignment in Australia.

The spirit of the Fire Management Leadership Award is to recognize excellence in fire leadership, something that Neighbors demonstrates in spades. 

“I applaud Rance for his forward-thinking vision and steadfast commitment to the conservation of public lands,” said BLM Wyoming State Director Andrew Archuleta. “We are so fortunate to have Rance on our team.”

Neighbors began his career with BLM Wyoming as a seasonal fuels crew member in 2001.  After that served in various capacities including assistant engine captain and NRS for invasive species prior to taking the position as fuels AFMO in 2008.

Neighbors is known throughout BLM Wyoming and beyond for his hands-on experience, vast knowledge of diverse ecosystems, and collaborative nature—both within his team and with partnering agencies like the U.S. Forest Service, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and county weed and pest districts, to name a few.

“Rance's ability to inspire and motivate his team and his wealth of expertise in the field have been instrumental in driving success,” said District Fire Management Officer Brian Cresto. “His effective communication, strategic planning abilities, unwavering commitment to safety, and dedication to continuous improvement truly distinguish him as an outstanding leader.” 

Three people stand smiling at the camera. The person in the middle is holding a plaque.
Rance Neighbors received BLM Wyoming’s 2023 Fire Management Leadership Award from State Director Andrew Archuleta and Assistant State Fire Management Officer Richard Putnam.


Neighbors was surprised by the award at the recent Wyoming Leadership Team meeting in Cheyenne.

“Wyoming has a long history of great leaders and role models within the fire and fuels programs,” said Neighbors. “The nominations this year were again a great group of folks and to be recognized among this group and actually receive the award is a huge honor.”

Neighbors was quick to credit his team for contributions that made the award possible.

“This award is not about me, it’s about the great staff I have that has the vision, drive and passion to work through the challenges to get the work done,” he continued. “It’s also about the support we have from all of the field managers and resources staff within the district, because to actually get a fuels project on the ground is not easy and it takes everyone.”

A person wearing a red hardhat watches dead cattails burn from a dirt road.
Rance checks out the progress of a prescribed fire project at the Yellowtail Wildlife Habitat Management Area in north-central Wyoming. Photo by Tim Haas.


After all the accolades, Neighbors is already back at it—setting goals for the season and laying the groundwork for future projects. As seasonal staff trickle in, he’s ensuring training and team building to foster a safe and positive work experience. He’s also collaborating with partner agencies to build on existing projects aimed at enhancing the aspen ecosystem, addressing juniper encroachment, and restoring riparian and river bottom habitats.

It's all in a day’s work for this fire leader.

Congratulations, Rance!

A person takes a selfie with three kids. All are wearing yellow firefighting shirts and red hardhats.
Students often accompany Rance into the field for the local middle school’s Job Shadow Day to learn about fire’s role in the ecosystem and jobs in fire.

Sarah Beckwith, Public Affairs

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