On monday we meet Crew 2 in Chino Valley to discuss the weeks plan. We travel to the Prescott National Forest to scout out piles that haven't been mapped out yet that need to be burned this week. Tuesday we start the pile burning and it continues through Thursday. We report 350 acres of piles burned. Friday, Veterans Day, we hosted a Veterans Day Pot-Luck BBQ to celebrate our season.
On monday we drove out to the Groom Creek area to cut an extra 60 acre chunk out of where we had already burned. Tuesday to Thursday we drove out to Cherry, an area in the West Zone of Prescott National Forest. With the drop in the weather it is difficult to get the fire to light on tuesday. However, on Wednesday the test fire is unsuccessful and we are unable to burn all together. Thursday we have drip torches in hand and finish up the burn site. Friday is a tools and vehicles maintenance day.
What follows is the tale of five inspiring individuals, dedicated to a life of service, who share a connection to the land and have made a commitment to the people who live there. Their quest is a courageous endeavor, the challenge of controlling wildland fire in Arizona’s most beautiful and equally unforgiving terrain. The Student Conservation Association, in partnership with Prescott National Forest of Arizona, is pioneering a new program, the Veterans Fire Corps (VFC), to complete fire & fuels management projects.
Bearing down on the standoff between wildfire and the wildland-urban interface, The VFC readily takes action. When weather, wind, and vegetation conditions align, they harness the power to control fire in their struggle to find a balance with Mother Nature. Some would call them idealists, many call them Heros, but one thing is clear: When history has passed and all that we know has come to fade away, the mountains of Prescott National Forest will stand eclipsed under the shadow of these giants known as the VFC. This is their story.
The VFC is working with Prescott National Forest to improve ecosystem health, rangeland conditions, wildlife habitat, and reduce the threat and adverse effects of wildland fire while also providing recent-era Veterans with the training, credentials and experience they need to competitively pursue wildland fire and/or forestry careers. The VFC is working on a variety of projects including; tree thinning, mechanical brush clearing, and prescribed fire.
Check back regularly to follow a firsthand account of their adventure.
The Daily Courier: Veterans get wildland fire training to help transition back to civilian life
PRESCOTT, AZ (Nov. 12, 2011) - A new program on Arizona's national forests is trying to help put a dent in the high unemployment rate for young veterans while fostering environmental conservation education.
The Veterans Fire Corps program hired veterans who formed teams of wildland firefighters to help with prescribed burns and brush thinning on the Prescott and Apache-Sitgreaves national forests, with the help of the Student Conservation Association. They've also helped build fence and trails.
It's a perfect transition, the veterans working out of Prescott said.
"It relates to our military history and makes me feel comfortable," said Chris Stacy, a native of Ketchikan in Southeast Alaska who logged 9,000 miles as a lead vehicle convoy driver delivering supplies in Iraq and continues to serve in the National Guard. "We all integrated really fast."
For example, wildland firefighting crews use the Incident Command System that the military created.
"It's an easy transition," agreed Marshall Kulp, who worked at an Army refueling station in Iraq and just got out of the Army this spring. "The enemy is fire."
The two jobs also share an emphasis on responsibility and discipline, Kulp added.
Four veterans are working here with project leader Bobby Woelz of the Student Conservation Association.
The veterans get a stipend, lodging, food and medical coverage along with an opportunity to enroll in the AmeriCorps Education Award program and get extra college tuition or loan support in the future. All four already have some level of college education.
They completed rigorous training in wilderness first aid, fire ecology, chainsaw use and wildland firefighting, earning red cards that make them eligible for wildland firefighting jobs.
While the national unemployment rate is about 9 percent, the unemployment rate for the nation's 2.3 million war veterans is over 13 percent.
The program also furthers the Student Conservation Association's goal of building the next generation of conservation leaders and inspiring environmental stewardship.
The goal appears to have been fulfilled on the Prescott National Forest.
The Veterans Fire Corps team members working on the Prescott National Forest all hail from other states, and most said they previously had no idea that Arizona even had forests.
"I thought it was all desert," said Kulp, who grew up in Indianapolis.
Now nearing the end of their three-month stint, the team members are considering jobs related to public lands and environmental conservation.
Kulp wants to be a smokejumper. He said he really enjoys the discipline, camaraderie, outdoors physical work and the opportunity to help people. He already has a degree in outdoor recreation and resource management.
Tim Gurnett, an Omaha native who has spent the past 5.5 years in active duty in Iceland, Bahrain, Kuwait and Hawaii, wants to be a law enforcement officer on public lands. He got a taste of the work during training on the Prescott National Forest, and next year he's headed to the National Park Service Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program Academy in Rangely, Colo. He's nearly finished earning an environmental studies degree.
"The whole experience will really stick with me," Gurnett said. "It gives you a different respect for people who work in the forest."
Kelli Smith, who hails from Palmdale, Calif. and already has a degree in anthropology after serving four years in Army air defense in El Paso, is joining a Prescott Forest archaeologist during a typical day's work before heading to a dig in Utah soon.
And Stacy said he's thinking about getting a helicopter pilot's license and finishing college. He's also expressed interest in being an SCA congressional intern focusing on water conservation and climate change.
Woelz said the vets are more mature and responsible than other young adults when they first join Student Conservation Association teams.
"They make my job a lot easier in some respects," he said.
Prescott National Forest Fire Staff Officer Pete Gordon said the veterans have been hard working, eager and motivated to learn.
"I'm just proud that we're doing a little bit here to pay back the folks who made a sacrifice to our country," he said.
Forest Service News: Prescott National Forest Pioneers New Program With Student Conservation Association Providing Job Training for Veterans
View the original article by clicking here.
PRESCOTT, AZ (October 28, 2011) — The Student Conservation Association (SCA), in partnership with Prescott National Forest, is pioneering a new program, the Veteran’s Fire Corps (VFC), to complete fire & fuels management projects. The SCA’s Mission is: “To build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship of our environment and communities by engaging young people in hands on service to land.” The SCA’s 4,000 interns and volunteers provide more than two million hours of conservation service per year. The SCA was founded before the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, the EPA, Earth Day and the novel ‘Silent Spring’. The SCA’s mission is two-fold: to provide educational opportunities, professional trainings, career exploration, and networking opportunities to young people while providing a much needed service to our Parks and Forests.
The VFC Team, consisting of four Corps Members and one Project Leader, has already undergone rigorous trainings including: Wilderness First Aid (WFA), Fire Ecology, Chain Saw, and Wildland Fighter Red Card Training. These trainings focus on enhancing conservation skills, environmental education. U.S. Forest Service history, and experience for veterans interested in pursuing future employment opportunities in natural resource management. Most of the VFC Team are college graduates and come from a wide array of educational disciplines including: anthropology, biology, environmental science, and recreation management. These highly ambitious individuals joined this project looking to gain much needed career experience and to learn more about land management issues. Corps Members also receive: a subsistence living allowance, medical coverage, housing, expense paid travel, and may choose to enroll in the AmeriCorps Education Award Program to receive an award for college tuition or existing student loans.
The VFC is working with Prescott National Forest to improve ecosystem health, rangeland conditions, wildlife habitat, and reduce the threat and adverse effects of wildland fire while also providing recent-era veterans with the training, credentials and experience they need to competitively pursue wildland fire and/or forestry careers. The VFC enables former members of the armed services to transition into civilian life by providing job training, personal development and conservation service opportunities in natural resource and fuels management projects. This program provides veterans with an opportunity to work in a team environment while performing natural resource projects within National Forest Systems lands. The VFC Team is currently working with Prescott National Forest on a variety of projects that include thinning and reducing hazardous fuels within designated Wildland Urban Interface management areas.
Learn more about the SCA, including ways you can become involved, by visiting our website at: www.thesca.org
Please send inquiries to: RWoelz@thesca.org
Bobby received his start in conservation by volunteering for four months on an ecological reserve in the Mayan Biosphere Reserve of Guatemala with the non-profit organization, Volunteer Petén. While receiving his degree in Anthropology from Metropolitan State College of Denver he interned with Fifth Sun Development Fund as an Environmental Anthropologist in the rural villages of Northern Mexico. This is Bobby’s fifth season with the SCA, previously serving two season in Fire and two seasons in Trails. He is a passionate outdoor enthusiast, conservationist, and is a certified Wildland Firefighter Type 1, Chainsaw A Feller, Cross-cut B Feller, Wilderness First Responder, and a Leave No Trace Master Educator. When he’s not leading the V.F.C. conducting prescribed burns in Prescott National Forest you might find him riding his enduro across the desert and canyoneering with his better half (and fellow SCA Project Leader), Anna, throughout Arizona and Utah.
Feel free to email or call Bobby with any questions or interest about the Veteran’s Fire Corps.
248 Vallejo, ST. APT. B
Prescott, AZ 86301-7524
Hi my name is Chris Stacy, I'm 22 years old and from a small fishing town in southeast Alaska. I have five and a half years in the National Guard with a deployment to the border of Mexico doing immigration control and to Anaconda, Iraq as a lead vehicle convoy driver. My whole life has been dedicated to understanding my environment and how things work, I'm obviously currently with the SCA in Prescott, AZ learning about wildland fire behavior and working with the Forest Service doing prescribed burns, fire effects monitoring, and thinning. My goal is to get into the congressional intern position with the SCA in DC and discuss water conservation and climate change.
We met Crew 2 out of Chino Valley on Monday. Today's plan is to maintain our vehicles and tools. Tuesday's plan is to build a fence. None of us had ever built a fence before and are not sure what to expect. We follow Crew 2 to Prescott National Forest where three open mine shafts lie. Crew 2 instructs us on proper fence building. Upon returning to Chino Valley Dillion, Alpha squad's leader, informs us that their wont be any burning this week due to weather and/or unfavorable conditions. Wednesday we walk the fire line of the Groom Creek Rx burn and the Iron fire to ensure that all fire remains contained. Thursday we conducted an "Admin Day" which includes; vehicle maintenance, a team meeting, planning for future team events, community outreach, and a service learning outing to the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott. Due to the length and intensity of the last couple weeks (and the next two weeks to come) we were offered Friday off.
My name is Marshall Stephen Kulp. I was born in Bloomington, Indiana on September 30, 1984. My parents divorced when I was three years old. My mother gained custody of me and moved to Indianapolis, Indiana. Throughout my childhood, I competed in athletics: baseball, swimming, soccer, football, wrestling, track and field and cross country. During high school, I lettered in 12 Varsity sports in four years and won various Conference, City, and multiple team tournaments in Cross Country, Wrestling, and Track. Academically, I fared well, earning a Cumulative 3.7 GPA and becoming a Who’s Who Among High School students. After graduation, I attended Indiana University. There, I signed up for the Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP) between the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corp (ROTC) and the Indiana National Guard. This program took the financial stress off my parents by paying my college tuition, providing me a monthly stipend, and military training. After graduating college, I entered the US Army as a Second Lieutenant. I received transportation training and was then stationed in Germany. Soon after, I deployed to Iraq. In March 2011, after serving 3 ½ years in the US Army, I resigned my commission and became a civilian. Soon after, I moved from Indianapolis to Denver, Colorado where I landed a summer job as a Park Ranger for the Colorado State Park Service and pursued a wildland fire fighting position as an intern with SCA’s Veterans’ Fire Corp (VFC). I am now a member of the VFC.
My name is Kelli Smith and I grew up in sunny Southern California. A year after graduating high school I joined the U.S. Army. During my four year enlistment I lived and worked in El Paso, Texas. An Air Defense Artillery unit is where I worked. The next two years were spent in Central Florida continuing my education and soaking up the sun. In 2009 I transferred to the University of California at Santa Barbara majoring in Physical Anthropology (think human evolution). In December 2010 I completed my Bachelors Degree. 2011 I moved back to Florida and worked as a nanny. Upon my research I found the SCA website. In June I recieved an email about this amazing opportunity and could not pass it up. This has thus far been as awesome as I thought it would be and I have learned the importance of fire and conservation in a community.
Another week of prescribed fires. Monday we prep the Groom Creek area including digging line around large snags (dead trees that are still providing for wildlife) so that they wont burn and sawing an area to help contain the fire when its time to burn. This week the plan is to burn Tuesday and Thursday and to monitor the fire on Wednesday and Friday (maybe even Saturday). The prescribed for Tuesday was burned a few years ago, this is what the Forest Service refers to as a maintenance burn. We are there to protect structures from future fire by reducing the fuels load and clearing some of the understory to make room for new growth. Tuesday the VFC holds the line. Wednesday we monitored the area after the burn. Thursday is an "initial entry" burn. Their is a lot of fuels on the ground. This burn is expected to burn hot. It does but cools rather quickly. Friday the VFC preforms tool maintenance, vehicle maintenance and any other odds and ends we need to complete for the week.
Monday we continue the prep work we started the previous week. We also have received our Red Cards! This means that this will be VFC's first "real" prescribed burn. We are excited to get our hands dirty. On Tuesday we meet at a predetermined location near where the RX will take place and receive a briefing from our Burn Boss, Mr. Clausen, and Burn Boss Trainee, Lindsey Fournier. The SCA crew is listed on the Incident Action Plan (IAP)as "holding." When on a prescribed burn their are two major groups, ignitions and holding. Ignitions has the drip torches and lights the fires. Holding monitors the hand line to be sure that the fire stays in the prescribed area and monitors the fires behavior. On Wednesday we are part of both holding and ignitions. We get a few hours on the drip torch then join the holders. Thursday is another day of holding, we do not see much fire behavior due to the unseasonable rain we had received, along with other factors. Friday we monitor the fire to be sure that it remains contained. about 300+ acres were maintained this week. One of the best weeks we've had... and they keep getting better.
The weekend before brought the area much rain so their will be no prescribed burning this week. That does not mean a week of relaxation in the "fire world." It means a week of back breaking prep work. We start the days going out to Chino Valley and meeting with Crew 2's second-in-command, Corey. Corey directs us to archaeological sites that wont get burned, or new areas where hand line needs to be dug. This week we got to work with saws, pulaski's, mcleod's, blowers, rakes and anything else that will get the job done. It's a great week in the Fire World!
Now the real work begins. The Prescott National Forest starts it's first prescribed burn of the season this week. The VFC is sent on Monday to dig lines and prep the area for the prescribed burns that will be conducted on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We are still waiting to officially receive our "Red Cards" so this week we are appointed the duty of watching the weather. Weather is a very important part of Fire and we are more than happy to take up the job. Where we are positioned we are able to see flames on the ground. This renews our spirits and the VFC is amped to complete our Red Card Training. Friday we complete a mandatory online course so we should be receiving our Red Cards any day now.
Monday morning we are in route to Chino Valley to meet Crew 2, we have to finish brushing the trail we started on Friday. When we reach Chino we fuel up our Dolmar (small container filled with fuel and oil for our chainsaws). We prep our equipment and get in the mindset to work. When Crew 2 is ready to leave so are we. We follow the green truck out to the site. First is a hike up from the road to the trail where we stopped Friday. Brushing projects begin on the trail and sawyers and swampers are hard at work. Work does not take long to finish and we break for lunch. After lunch we will hike back to the trucks and head back to Chino Valley. At the trucks we perform an AAR (After Action Review) to recap the trail maintenance project including both days. We review what was supposed to happen and any bumps we came to along the way. When the day is over we perform tool maintenance.
On Tuesday we are to meet Crew 2 again at 0800 and perform more trail maintenance and brushing operations. On the AZ-89N about 2 miles from the Chino Valley office we see three green trucks pass us, trucks we know to belong to Crew 2. Over the radio they announce to the Dispatch that they are in route to the “Lookout Fire.” Unsure of what to do next we call our agency contact, Assistant FMO for the East Zone of Prescott National Forest, Jason Clauson. Mr. Clauson has us contact the FMO of the East Zone to find out where they need us. We head to the Prescott Fire Center to see him. We have not received our “Red Cards” yet so we cannot help with the wildfire. Today will be the day we catch up on our team needs, vehicle maintenance, and tool inspection/repair. At 1300 we are told to head to the White Spar Campground area and find trail 396. This trail, we learn, is a trail that is a part of the Prescott Circle Trail Project. We clean up and perform maintenance on 396 until end of day.
Wednesday we meet with a gentleman by the name of Evan, he is based out of the Downtown Prescott Forest Service Office. Evan is a “Trail Guy.” We learn more about the Circle Trail Project; it is a connection of trails that form a circle around the Prescott Basin. We are to construct trail in a new area to connect two existing trails. Today we learn the basics of constructing a new trail. Along the side of the mountain someone has flagged an area where the trail will be. We gather our hand tools and get to work. Between today and tomorrow we have to construct 800 yards of new trail. We complete a little more than half.
Thursday we meet Evan at the Downtown Prescott office and head back out to the Circle Trail. Today is a little different; we are working with a group of trail volunteers. The rest of the trail is completed by lunch time. The next area we drive to has not been brushed yet. We have three saws running, and four swampers. We prep the trail for a trail crew to lay in the trail at a later time. At the end of the day we perform an AAR and Evan informs us that Friday we will be working with his trail crew and doing trail maintenance on Mingus Mountain.
Friday morning we meet Erin, Lauren and Cricket (Evan’s team) at the hardware store down the street from out headquarters in Prescott at 0730. It is a forty-five minute drive to the Mingus Mountain trail we will work on. We go over a safety brief at the trucks and Erin lets us know the plan for the day. We will hike in about 2 miles in then begin the trail maintenance. The trail is in the desert of the mountain with no shade cover. It is a hard day’s work maintaining this trail and when 1230 rolls around we search for a shaded area to eat our lunch. After lunch we work our way back the way we came finishing up some of the work we missed. At 1430 we head back to the trucks and back to our HQ in Prescott. Another successful week for the VFC.
During our third week, the Assistant Fire Management Officer, Jason, assigned us to Prescott’s hand and engine crew, Crew 2. After teaching us S-212 (Wildfire Chain Saws), they certified us as “A fallers”, which is the apprentice level of the three certifications: “A, B, and C fallers”. The “A faller” is proficient in limbing and bucking. Limbing is the practice of sawing branches off trees and bucking is the practice of sawing fallen timber in to smaller pieces. The members of Crew 2 were extremely helpful and patient. They took us into the Prescott National Forest on various recreational trails and supervised chain saw operations. It was good to meet them, work alongside them, and learn from them.
Members of the Prescott National Forest VFC Team (and the Apache-Sitgreaves VFC Team ), enjoyed two weeks of SCA Orientation, Red Card (wildland fire), and Wilderness First Aid training. The first week was designated for Red Card training. We took S-190 (Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior), S-130 (Firefighter Training), I-100 (Introduction to Incident Command System, and L-180 (Human Factors on the Fireline). On Friday, September 2nd, we performed our pack test and conducted a field training exercise (FTX). The pack test is designed to test our physical endurance. We carried 45 pounds for three miles in under 45 minutes. Our FTX was completely crew member run. Our squad boss was not the project leader but a fellow crew member. We established escape routes and safety zones, established a lookout, built a fireline, and had to use our fire shelters. It was good to practice the techniques and knowledge we gained in the classroom.
During the second week of training, our SCA supervisors took us into the Prescott National Forest to teach us about fire ecology and the effects of fire. We saw what a recently burned patch of forest looked like and what effects the fire caused. Then, two personnel from Aerie Backcountry Wilderness traveled down from Montana to certify us in adult/child CPR along and Wilderness First Aid. The class was conducted outside and was extremely thorough. After learning the book answers, we immediately practiced them. Our instructors provided us with hands-on real world scenarios that tested our ability to learn, react, work with others, and make prudent snap decisions.
Prescott National Forest consists of 1.25 million acres and borders three other National Forests in Arizona: Kaibab, Coconino, and Tonto. Roughly half of the forest lies west of the city of Prescott, Arizona, in the Juniper, Santa Maria, Sierra Prieta, and Bradshaw Mountains. The other half of the Forest lies east of Prescott and takes in the Black Hills, Mingus Mountain, Black Mesa, and the headwaters of the Verde River.
At the lowest elevation, the primary vegetation is of the Sonoran Desert type. As the elevation rises, chaparral becomes common, followed by piñon pine and juniper. Above that, Ponderosa pine dominates the landscape.
The fire environment on the Prescott National Forest is characterized by multiple fuel types, steep terrain, poor ground access, and large areas of encroaching urban interface. The Forest averages approximately 90 fires annually and approximately 60% of these fires are caused by lightning. The primary goal of the Prescott National Forest fire program is to reduce the risk of wildfire and to reduce hazardous fuels throughout the wildland urban interface (WUI).
The different fuels on the Forest include: desert grasslands, perennial grasslands, chaparral, pinyon/juniper woodlands, ponderosa pine stands, and mixed conifer in higher elevations. In most areas these fuels have few natural or man-made breaks. The terrain is typically steep, with the exception being the flat pinyon/juniper area in the northern part of the Forest. Fuel arrangement allows for light, flashy fuels at the 3,000 foot elevation that change to chaparral and then pine at higher elevations, creating a continuous fuel loading which increases the chances for a major wildland fire.
Crown King, the Prescott Basin and the Verde Valley are three major wildland urban interface areas that can create extremely dangerous conditions in the event of a wildfire. There are also numerous smaller communities throughout the Forest that could be in jeopardy in the event of a fire in these areas. Coordination with local fire departments and the State of Arizona are crucial in these areas. The Forest borders state and private land to the northeast, the Tonto Forest to the southeast and BLM and state land to the south and west.
Weather on the forest is normally hot and dry, with fire danger rising rapidly once the spring green-up period is over. This usually occurs between mid and late May, with fire conditions worsening until the summer rains set in, usually around the first or second week of July. Though these summer rains, often referred to as "the monsoon season", bring much needed moisture to the Forest, they also bring a lot of lightning activity. This lightning activity usually causes multiple fires on Forest that, if adequate moisture is not received, can create suppression and management issues. Historically most Incident Management Team activations occur when these summer storms first arrive on Forest. Depending on the length and intensity of the summer storms, the Forest can also have a second fire season in September and October. Due to the great variations in fuel types and elevations on the Forest, annual weather events sometimes have different effects upon different parts of the Forest. As an example, a wet year typically leads to an above normal level of activity in the lower, desert country, while a dry trend tends to affect the mid and upper elevations where the heavier concentrations of fuel exist.
|Veteran's Fire Corps|
|The Daily Courier: Veterans get wildland fire training to help transition back to civilian life|
|Forest Service News: Prescott National Forest Pioneers New Program With Student Conservation Association Providing Job Training for Veterans|
|Prescott National Forest|
|Bobby Woelz - Project Leader|
|Chris Stacy - Corps Member|
|Tim Gurnett - Corps Member|
|Marshall Kulp - Corps Member|
|Kelli Smith - Corps Member|
|Week Eleven... Pile Burning|
|Week Ten.... Cherry RX|
|Week Nine... Rain|
|Week Eight.... Groom Creek RX|
|Week Seven... Loba/Bean Peaks RX|
|Week Six... Prep Work|
|Week Fire...RX Burns Begin|
|VFC Week Four|
|S-212 Chain Saw Training|
|VFC Member Training|