Veterans Workforce in Rapid City, SD. Photo: Tim Weaver.
Since 2013, Rapid City Fire Department and Rapid City Parks Department in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management have hired veterans returning from active duty to conduct wildfire fuels reduction projects while they transition to civilian life. The program has many benefits: it is helping veterans, restoring fire-adapted ecosystems, raising wildfire awareness and improving the safety of Rapid City neighborhoods.
The program has grown into a huge success with treatment on 917 acres and the protection of 296 structures, earning it the 2015 Inaugural Wildfire Mitigation Innovation Award - recognition jointly sponsored by the National Association of State Foresters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Fire Protection Association, and the US Forest Service.
Veterans in the program receive training in firefighting, emergency preparedness, equipment operation, forestry or their desired field of interest - a win/win for Rapid City and returning Veterans!
The program's ongoing partnerships with federal agencies and private landowners are resulting in mitigation on large tracts of land adjacent to neighborhoods that face severe threats from wildfire and coordinate well with homeowner efforts to reduce their own wildfire risk. The program has also increased public awareness of the importance of living consciously in a landscape where fire is a natural and common occurrence.
The Cohesive Strategy supports these innovative efforts to address the workforce and wildland fire issues at the community level. Congratulations!