Wild-land fire adventures

Conservation Conversations

Are you are getting bored with your life? Do you like the outdoors and hard physical activity? Does the smell of a campfire get your juices flowing? If you answered yes to all of the above, I have a career opportunity for you.

Wildfires have always been a part of the natural world. Prairie fires renewed the grassland ecology, forest fires in the west kept the woods thinned and park-like. Many of the fire dependent species such as the giant sequoias kept reproducing due to the serotinous cones opening up and dropping out their seeds due to the heat of the fires. Native Americans used fire to create habitat for hunting wildlife.

Due to extensive logging, coal fired locomotives and a dry summer period, wildfires spread throughout the nation in 1910. As a result, with disregard for the natural ecology of fire, and of course political overreaction, a policy of extinguishing forest fires was implemented, and the Forest Fire Service was created.

Over time, the effect of the policy was the buildup of fuels in many western forests. Fuels of another sort also built up, housing was spreading out from cities and deep into the western forests. Combined, we now have what is known as the wild-land/urban interface.

If you’ve ever watched the news reporting extensive forest fires, saw the flames and fire whorls ripping into the air like tornados and said to yourself, “man, I would like to be there,” then training for a wild-land firefighter is for you. The Department of Environmental Conservation has a training program to get you started in this intense career. You will need to take the S-130 and S-190 courses and pass what is called a Work Capacity Test (WCP). This is a physical endurance test which requires you to carry a 45 pound pack for 3 miles in less than 45 minutes.

Rich Redman is a retired District Conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and an avid outdoorsman. His column will appear regularly. He may be reached at rangeric@nycap.rr.com.

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