After an exciting and memorable summer, VFC Team 1 has made its fare the wells and dispersed.
Two of the five corps members will remain in the Black Hills to continue with full-time positions, one on an engine crew with Black Hills NF, Mystic RD in Hill City, and another working with the South Dakota Dept of Game, Fish, and Parks in the Outdoor Campus West facility in Rapid City. We wish them well in their new pursuits!
Attached is the Final Worksite Report for Team 1, describing all our experiences and accomplishments this summer. Enjoy!
Thanks to the SCA and all the staff of the Mystic RD for your support throughout this season. For the last time, this is Veterans Fire Corps, Black Hills Team 1, signing off...
During the last full week of service at Black Hills NF, Team 1 got on its most active fire yet. The Brush Creek Fire, at around 2 acres, was burning in grass and timber when Team 1 arrived with Engine 361. We laid hose packs around the perimeter of the fire, and occasionally had to step off the fireline while a helicopter dumped buckets of water over the actively burning sections. Once the fire was 100% contained, we continued to mop up the interior for several hours into the afternoon. Finally at around 6pm, every visible smoke was extinguished and the fire was pronounced 100% controlled, or expected to remain within the containment line under any foreseeable conditions. We were then released and headed home.
The rest of the week, we were dispatched to a few other fires, but were subsequently cancelled while on our way to the incident. We spent the remaining days doing station work like sharpening tools and packing additional hose into bags to be used in the future. Some corps members also continued to work with the Archaeology Dept, conducting surveys of historic sites and documenting the findings. Some of us also worked at SD Game, Fish, and Parks, giving fishing lessons to local kids and leading hikes throughout campus.
This week, Team 1 again experienced many different departments of the USFS.
Gabby again worked with the Archaeology dept, conducting site surveys and drawing maps of sites and the artifacts within. John also helped with administrative tasks within the Arch dept, as well as working alongside the SD Dep of Game, Fish, and Parks. Jerod worked with the Wildlife dept, helping conduct surveys of native SD raptors, including the monitoring of a new nest site for a ospreys. Steve also worked with the SDGFP, monitoring trout populations via electro-shocking devices to stun fish before counting. Jerod and Kip also got to work with Recreation at Castle Peak campground, installing new signs and picnic tables, as well as trimming overhanging branches above roads and campsites.
Otherwise, the crew reported to the Mystic RD fire station to remain ready for initial attack of new fires. We did not get the chance to work on any fires during this week, but only responded to a few before our resource orders were cancelled shortly after.
We have one more full week of fire service to go before we all part ways. Hoping to go out with a couple more good ones under our belts...
This week, each member of Team 1 got to work with a different department within Black Hills NF and State agencies.
Gabby worked with Archaeology, installing new interpretive signs at Gold Mountain Mine. John worked with the SD Dept of Game, Fish, and Parks, sitting in on Conservation LEO and Game Warden orientation and helping out with the annual ADA picnic and fish feeding frenzy. Hayley got to work alongside the Botany staff, surveying for species of local concern within the Black Hills. Steve went on another ride-along with the Forest LEO's, and Jared worked with the Recreation Dept, installing new fencing.
Aside from these side pursuits, Team 1 also had its busiest week of fire experience yet. Several times during the week, we checked fires that had been contained earlier in the week or during the weekend, to make certain that the lines have held and that the fires are completely out. On Friday, we also responded as initial attack to the Upper Reservoir Fire, a one acre fire in the North Zone of the Forest, burning in grass and timber. After deploying several hundred feet of hose lays and mopping up for several hours, we finally called it a night when the fire was 100% contained and mopped up, returning home at around midnight. A great finish to a busy week.
This past week was probably the most fun as well as the most strenuous. We did chain saw work all week long with the Travel Management section of the Recreation department; mostly limbing and bucking of downed slash but we all got to fell some trees as well. This is a particular favorite of ours: felling trees. The main goal of this project was to help reopen several ATV trails through the forest. The last two days of our work week was spent down near Hot Springs, SD working with The Nature Conservancy on a Russian Olive removal project. It was fun but very hot and very tiring for those of you that know a thing or two about Russian Olive.
This week was also the week that we finally at long last got called to not just one but two fires. Ironically our first one was actually up in North Zone so we got to work with a hand crew from that district, a few of whom we had met several weeks earlier during Fire School. It was nice to see them again. Both of the fires we went to were started by lightning from a storm that had passed through the area. Hopefully this coming week will bring several more fires and some hard work.
This week, Team 1 worked with the Range Dept of Black Hills NF.
The range technician showed us how properly dismantle barbed wire fence. The fence we took down stretched approximately 1.03 miles and the dismantled barbed wire weighed over 1100 lbs! Most of the terrain was flat, but, of course, there were quite a few steep hills as well.
It took us three days to finish it all. Believe it or not, there is a specific technique to properly roll the wire into neat loops. We got a few pokes and light scratches, but in the end, to the victor go the spoils. The collected metal was ultimately taken to a recycling site in exchange for cash that helps fund the Range Dept's future projects. It was a great learning experience.
On Thursday, Team 1 also got its first experience as USFS employees, when the Mystic Ranger District requested the VFC to remain on severity, or standby duty, to maintain quicker response time to a wildland fire. We didn't get called to any fires that day, but we got a few extra AD dollars for our time.
First and foremost, this week was highlighted by the fact we received our red cards from the Forest Service and completed the associated paperwork which allows us to conduct wildfire suppression. The term is AD, or on an administratively determined pay plan, and any direct fireline work we do this summer will technically be as AD Forest Service employees. Although we had our red cards on Monday morning, our first actual day calling in to the Dispatch Center for fire service was Thursday, the 5th.
Monday and Tuesday were spent finishing up with the Heritage Division Archaeologists. Our work was similar to that described in week three, although we were located in a different area which had not been surveyed by the division in approximately 15 years. We reconfirmed the remains of an old housing foundation, as well as numerous sites clearly used in the Black Hills’ rich mining past. We were all impressed with the impressive amount of knowledge to be acquired from something as seemingly nondescript as the styling of a whiskey bottle. It was also interesting to learn that these miners essentially lived on condensed milk, coffee, and sardines—and the canning remains of all three are literally scattered across the region.
After a relaxing day off on the fourth spent barbecuing (and thinking of our brothers and sisters in arms still in harms way), on Thursday we worked with the Recreation Division. Our project consisted of trail rehabilitation near Deerfield Lake—we eliminated an improper section of trail, and more clearly blazed approximately 100 yards of new trail. We also built multiple sections of buck and rail fence, and put up the proper signage to encourage hikers, bikers, and equestrian use while discouraging motorized vehicle use.
Friday we were back on call with the Mystic Fire division, shadowing one of the engines for the day. It was nice to catch back up with the Mystic personnel—we had a large cookout at the Hill City Forest Service location. Since the Black Hills Fire Danger Level had reached “Extreme” early in the week, crews from literally across the nation had arrived and were joining us—Oregon, Washington, California, and Nebraska were all represented, and likely others as well. Some much needed rain arrived later in the week to help moderate the short term threat, but with serious drought conditions this year we anticipate action on the fireline in the future.
Fires in the Black Hills have been on the rise this week, but so far, Team 1 has been involved in other aspects of the National Forests programs.
This week, we got the chance to work the Mystic RD Heritage Department, which deals with historic and prehistoric archaeological sites throughout the forest. On Monday, we heard an introductory presentation on archaeological methods and the types of sites in the Black Hills. In the Hills, mining sites comprise many of the recorded historic areas. Later that day, we helped maintain Miller Cabin, one of the first homestead sites in the area, by applying linseed oil to the wooden exterior, which helps protect it from the elements. We also got to visit a cabin at the Elmo Canyon Mine, where we removed hazardous dead fuels to mitigate fire risk.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, we learned how to survey, record, and describe a historic site at the Empire Mine and Gold Mountain Mine, both of which contained numerous pieces of equipment, including the remains of a furnace, workshop, crane, and multiple mine shafts. It was interesting to piece together a more complete picture of the past from the limited data the remain.
On Thursday, we visited the Carr Cemetery, another historic site where generations of South Dakota homesteaders and their descendents have been buried. We helped maintain the site, by weed-wacking and removing small trees from the burial grounds, and by rebuilding sections of old fence that have since fallen into disrepair. It has been an intriguing week working with a department with which none of us has had much experience before.
We are now done with most of our training and are finally getting into a regular work routine. Our average day consists of a morning workout with the Mystic Ranger District fire crews in Black Hills National Forest. After our workout, we meet for the morning briefing where we go over the fire weather conditions and forecast for that day as well as fire activity across the region and country. We also take Six Minutes for Safety, which touches on a new topic every day that has to do with some aspect of wildland firefighting.
This week we were able to assist the Mystic RD fuels specialist in collecting fuel samples (which are types of vegetation ranging from grass to logs) in the field to determine how dry the fuels are in various locations throughout the Black Hills. The fuels we collected were then placed into an oven and dried for 24 hours. We weighed each sample before and after it was dried to determine the moisture content in each. Once the moisture content has been determined, the numbers are put into a computer where an algorithm calculates an estimate of fire danger and the rate and intensity at which a fire would spread. Besides collecting fuel samples we went to two locations in the forest and used post-hole diggers to place “No Campfire” signs along roadways. It was a nice change of pace and a chance for us to spend more time outside in the hills.
After work, we also went to the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks Outdoor Campus and received a short lesson on fly fishing. We had the chance to take what we learned and fish in a pond located at the Outdoor Campus. A few of us even caught some fish. On Friday, some of the corps members also took the opportunity to participate in a training exercise with the South Dakota National Guard and various other local branches of the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. The exercise practiced the procedure for rescuing a patient using the mechanized hoist of a UH-72 Lakota helicopter. Overall, it was not a bad week.
This week in the VFC, all the members received their sawyer certifications! As with all training, we started in the class room for long hours of in depth professional training before we got outside and felled a few trees each. During the training, we had an intense hailstorm which delayed two of the crew members from getting certified. The storm let up the next day, and Team 1 had 6 certified sawyers! The crew members all received the A level certification, which is the most basic level of sawyer on a fire crew. Kip, however, received his B level sawyer, which is the intermediate level, so we are all very proud of him for his efforts and hard work! The following week was the first full week that the crew was not in a training environment. We participated in drills with the Mystic Ranger District staff, including water pumping drills and a mock fire hose lay drill. There was a fire in the district, but unfortunately for us, we do not have our red cards in hand, and thus we cannot accompany the fire dept on a non-training fire. So we keep our heads held high and wait for our cards to come in so we can get out there on the front lines. We also got to attend a class on rare plants in the Black Hills. The class was very informative and all members enjoyed the class. We finished out the week with a PT hike in Custer State Park.
We all met at Medicine Mountain Boy Scout Camp near Custer, SD on May 21st to begin our two weeks of training. The first week of training included SCA classes and making sure that all of our administration tasks were taken care of. We also all went through a Wilderness First Aid and CPR certification class. Each morning we began our day out with an outdoor activity to help make sure that we were all awake and ready for a day of classes.
Our second week of training was much more fun, this was the beginning of Fire School, during which we all camped out in a fire camp like we would during a large wildfire incident. Several members of the surrounding Forest Service District Offices (Custer, Rapid City, Hill City, and Spearfish) came to the camp in order to teach us all we would need to know in order to fight forest fires or help with prescribed burns. Some of the classes were on weather and how it affects the way fire behaves. We also had a class just on fire behavior as well as fuels and how to read the forest for potential hazards. On our second to last day, we all participated in a prescribed burn field exercise. This school also included people with the State of South Dakota, the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Forest Service, as well as all of us on the three Veteran Fire Corps teams. Two of these teams will be staying in the Black Hills for the summer, while the third will be going to Arizona.
My name is Steve Jostes. I have lived in Nebraska my whole life and graduated high school from Lutheran High in Norfolk, NE. I joined the Navy Reserves right out of high school and in 2008 I was deployed to Al Asad, Iraq, to start up customs inspections out of the country. After I returned to the States, I went back to college at Concordia University and just graduated May 5th with a degree in biology and geography. I have spent my life outside and I'm always happiest when I'm outdoors. My hobbies include hunting, fishing, 4-wheeling, camping, and backpacking. As I write this I am actually on my way back from a 10 day camping/backpacking trip to California. I can't wait to get out to the Black Hills and meet everyone. See you all soon.
My name is Hayley Peters and I was born and raised in the west central region of Minnesota. I grew up on one of the many thousands of lakes we have, so I enjoy being on the water more than anything. I love boating, water skiing and wake boarding. In the winter I snowboard and cross country ski. I graduated college from University of Wisconsin River Falls with a degree in Field Biology and my main interest is plants. On that note, I also grow orchids as a hobby and enjoy gardening. I also love to run, rollerblade, hike and play guitar, which I will be bringing with me to get some much needed practice this summer. I also love to draw and paint, so I'm hoping to get a few drawing done sometime this summer as well. I have only been home from my first tour overseas about a month now. I was deployed in support of Operation New Dawn last May to Camp Beurhing, Kuwait. I worked as a truck commander on convoy security missions in Iraq in order to help pull all the equipment out and close the bases up there. I am very much looking forward to this summer and the beginning of a new adventure for me.
My name is Jerod Jazenski, I was born and raised in Erie, PA. After high school, I went to the Coast Guard Academy for my undergraduate in New London, CT and then served a little over five years in the service. I was stationed primarily in Alameda, CA, Washington, DC, and Mobile, AL. Positions held included deck watch (ship driving), boarding team member, helicopter control, and intelligence analysis. Deployments for me typically meant either the Bering Sea or the Eastern Pacific off of Central or South America. The primary missions were drug enforcement, fisheries enforcement, and search and rescue. I've been out of the service for over two years at this point; I took close to a year for a lengthy backpacking trip (Middle East, Eastern Europe, and South America), and went back to school last summer for a graduate program at Slippery Rock University (in PA). I'm nearing completion of an M.S. in Sustainable Systems, and this work with the SCA is counting towards my internship. I love the outdoors and any excuse to get out--backpacking, mountain biking, kayaking, canoeing, hunting, fishing, etc. I'm definitely looking forward to this summer in the Black Hills with you all.
Hello everybody, my name is John Cargill. I am excited to be a part of the SCA Veteran Fire Corps. A little bit about myself: I am from Rochester NY and I am 26 years old. I have a degree in Natural Resources Conservation Law Enforcement and a certificate in Criminal Justice as well as training in wildland fire suppression from Finger Lakes, a 2 year school in the SUNY system. From there, I went to SUNY Maritime, the New York State Merchant Marine Academy. I went there from Marine Environmental Science and a Coast Guard 3rd Mates license. I was in the DOC program for the Coast Guard to be a Marine Science Technician, but as circumstances would provide, I ended up in the Army as a Chemical Specialist. I have also been a Maine State tour leader and camp counselor and had a similar experience, and I also have done volunteer firefighting. I enjoy lifting weights, playing lacrosse, hockey, and rugby. I want to be a conservation police officer, which is a large reason why I am here. I really want to make friends and hopefully get a foot in the door for a career!
I am a born and raised country girl from Evergreen, Alabama. I have lots of hobbies; a few of my favorites are writing, reading, music, rollerblading, kayacking, four wheeling, riding horses, animals, and just the outdoors in general. In my spare time, I try to teach myself to play guitar. It's coming along slowly ... lol. I am currently working on a program for Wildlife/Forestry Conservation. I am recently returning from a deployment in Kyrgyzstan at Manas Air Base, where my job was passenger service, which is dealing with moving passengers and cargo on planes. I have been back a little over a month now, and am very excited about this summer and the new things to come.
My name is Kristian Stein. I grew up in New Jersey but have since lived in Arizona and California while volunteering and later working as supervisor for a nonprofit conservation corps, American Conservation Experience. There I worked on invasive species, trail maintenance, and wildfire risk mitigation projects, and was trained in chainsaw operation and wilderness first aid. Afterwards, while living in Flagstaff, AZ, I worked as a biological collections assistant at the Museum of Northern Arizona, and eventually earned a degree in Forestry from Northern Arizona University. Afterwards, I served a full time AmeriCorps term as a member in the Bear Jaw Fire and Fuels Module, where I became certified as a wildland firefighter. I later worked as a prescribed burn crew manager for the North Carolina Dept of Environment and Natural Resources. This is my first experience working with the SCA and I'm very excited about engaging the crew, our partner agency, and the public in the environmental issues that face the communities of the Black Hills.
|Black Hills VFC Team 1, 2012 season begins|
|Corps Member Steve Jostes Bio|
|Corps Member Hayley Peters Bio|
|Corps Member Jerod Jazenski Bio|
|Corps Member John Cargill Bio|
|Corps Member Gabbrielle Stallworth Bio|
|Project Leader Kristian Stein Bio|
|Week 9 of Service|
|Week 8 of Service|
|Week 7 of Service|
|Week 6 of Service|
|Week 5 of Service|
|Week 4 of Service|
|Week 3 of Service|
|Week 2 of Service|
|S-212 and Week 1 of Service|
|Corps Member Training, Wilderness First Aid, Fire School|