Military Veterans Train for Wildland Firefighting at National Parks

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Date: March 2, 2018
Contact: Yvonne Menard, 805-658-5725

About 200 aspiring wildland firefighters – all local military veterans – will attend four days of wildland firefighting training from March 2-5 at Paramount Ranch in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and at Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park.

The vets are members of Team Rubicon, an L.A.-based nonprofit organization that meshes the skills of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. Upon successful completion of the training they will be certified as wildland firefighters and will have the ability to join federal, state, and local fire crews.

“It’s been a tough and tragic fire season for our state, but we’re happy that by hosting this training event for military vets, the National Park Service is part of an important effort to augment our highly skilled team of first responders,” said David Szymanski, Superintendent of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. “The reality is we will most likely need the expertise of these vets in the near future.”

This is the second year in a row that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), in partnership with Team Rubicon, will be kicking off the national wildland firefighter training session in Los Angeles. Instructors will then travel to Texas, Maryland, Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Idaho and Alaska to educate Team Rubicon members in wildland fire suppression tactics, including communication techniques, fireline construction, equipment operation, and other critical wildland firefighting skills.

“It just makes sense to match our veterans’ skills with wildland firefighting. They already understand critical aspects of the wildland fire program, such as our Incident Command System, and they have the work ethic we need in wildland fire. Plus, some of the Team Rubicon members that take this training may decide to pursue wildland fire careers, which further enhances our firefighting workforce with talented employees,” said Howard Hedrick, Acting Assistant Director of BLM Fire and Aviation.  

The group will be split among L.A’s two closest national parks – attendees who possess more advanced training will spend Saturday and Sunday learning chainsaw skills on Santa Cruz Island, part of Channel Islands National Park. The larger group will learn basic skills at Paramount Ranch in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. All candidates will complete a physical pack test, a requirement for all federal wildland firefighters, where they must carry 45 pounds of weight in a pack or weighted vest and hike three miles in 45 minutes or less.

"Team Rubicon is proud to partner with the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service to provide additional opportunities for our volunteers to train and serve communities impacted by disasters," said Joe Thompson, Team Rubicon's Membership Manager. "Together, we're repurposing the skills and experience of our veterans and first responders that may otherwise remain idle."

In April 2015, BLM formed a partnership with Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster response nonprofit, because many of the skills veterans learned in the military translate to wildland firefighting, such as teamwork, decisive leadership, risk mitigation and management, logistics and emergency medicine. In 2015 and 2017, Team Rubicon members trained as wildland firefighters responded to wildfires in Alaska, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington during two of the most severe fire seasons in recorded history.

Since two Marines founded Team Rubicon in response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the organization has responded to floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and other severe weather damage, helping disaster survivors all over the globe.

The Bureau of Land Management manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The agency's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America's public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. Diverse activities authorized on these lands generated $75 billion in sales of goods and services throughout the American economy in fiscal year 2016 - more than any other agency in the Department of the Interior. These activities supported more than 372,000 jobs.

Channel Islands National Park (CINP), America’s 40th national park, was established by Congress on March 5, 1980. The park is made up of five islands — Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara — and the waters within one nautical mile of each island. The park bridges two major biogeographical provinces within 250,000 acres of land and sea, protecting a rich array of natural and cultural resources. The park offers the public with unparalleled opportunities for solitude, tranquility, wildlife viewing, outdoor recreation, and education. For more information, visit

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) is the largest urban national park in the country, encompassing more than 150,000 acres of mountains and coastline in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. A unit of the National Park Service, it comprises a seamless network of local, state and federal parks interwoven with private lands and communities. As one of only five Mediterranean ecosystems in the world, SMMNRA preserves the rich biological diversity of more than 450 animal species and 26 distinct plant communities. For more information, visit

Team Rubicon seeks to help veterans transition from military to civilian life through disaster relief deployment by providing them with a sense of purpose, community, and identity, which are all often missing following their military service. Since two Marines founded the group in response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the organization has responded to floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other severe weather damage, helping disaster survivors all over the globe.

Last updated: March 6, 2018

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