FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - The Coconino National Forest is hoping to see more veterans, especially women, apply to become wildland firefighters through its Veterans in Wildfire program.
Veteran and Fuels Crew Assistant Captain Corey Wilson said wildland firefighting gives vets the comradery many of them seek after leaving the armed forces.
“One of the things a lot of veterans miss is that brotherhood, having that close group of friends that you laugh, cry with, have right there for you,” Wilson said.
Wilson said wildland firefighting is a good transition into civilian life.
“That comradery of working with 10 other people all summer long, you wake up, eat breakfast with them, work all day with them, eat dinner with them,” Wilson said.
After eight years of service and deployment in the Middle East, three weeks preventing and fighting fires isn't all that bad for Wilson.
“That doesn’t feel near as long after being on a year-long deployment,” Wilson said.
The Coconino National Forest has pushed hard to recruit over the last four years. Fifteen vets joined in the 2017 season and applications are welcome for the following year.
Forest Fuels Specialist Vic Morfin heads up the program. He said it was easy for vets to apply.
“They can simply bring in a resume and we can hire them under the Veterans’ Recruitment Authority,” Morfin said, adding, “Unfortunately, we tend to see probably 10 times more males apply and our program is open to both.”
Morfin said wildland firefighting can open the door to other possibilities.
“They may choose to be a wildland biologist. A lot of our veterans are interested in law enforcement,” Morfin said.
“We travel all around. I spend as much time with them as I do my family,” Wilson said.
No matter where their career takes them, wildland firefighting gives vets the support they need to succeed as civilians.
The Cononino National Forest hires most of its wildland firefighters in January and February, but Tuesday, Morfin said the agency is taking applications. Veterans can drop off their resumes at their local forest service office or apply online here.