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2017 Wildland Fire Youth Program Outreach

Alan Sinclair and Genaro Rocha stand in front of the SRFD brush fire truck at the Lehi Station 292.

Through the Salt River Agency Tribal Nations Response Team, an organization that works with the Salt River Fire Department through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a youth program is being offered to train and hire firefighters to battle emergency wildfires around the Valley and beyond.

The agency has partnered with the TNRT, which is composed of fire department and other personnel from the Gila River Indian Community, Ak-Chin Indian Community, Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and Tohono O’odham Nation.

The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community is recruiting youth ages 18 to 24 who want to learn how to fight fires and perhaps one day become a firefighter with the Salt River Fire Department.

New recruits will be required to take a drug test, complete 40 hours of Wildland Fire Training Rookie School, and pass a fitness test, which includes walking 3 miles while carrying a 45-pound pack in under 45 minutes. Health exams will be scheduled after the interviews are completed.

The same requirements apply for seasonal returning applicants, with the addition of a one-day fire line safety refresher and completion of S-130, L-180, I-100 and I-700 (for class descriptions, see https://onlinetraining.nwcg.gov).

“We provide urban interface and wildland protection for the Community, so all our firefighters have all their wildland certifications, along with a refresher annually and a test to make sure they are physically capable for the next season,” said Capt. Genaro Rocha, Wildland Coordinator for the SRFD.

The program provides the support, equipment and training for firefighters to meet the wildland requirements. The wildland team then gains experience and knowledge, which they bring back with them when they return to the Salt River Fire Department.

“When they come back from wildland fires, they bring back good information that we can use from what they learned,” said Rocha.

Alan Sinclair, fire management officer for the Pima Agency and the Salt River Agency, explained that the program helps with fighting large fires on the Community, which typically occur near the Red Mountain and Verde River areas.

He says the goal is to increase the outreach to Community youth about becoming firefighters. “… [S]uccess for this program is someone coming in loving what they do and getting a job doing it,” shared Sinclair.

“One of the things I do with my job is recruit tribal youth,” he said, emphasizing the importance of having enough hires so there are trained fire crews available when that emergency call comes in. That means they have to get new firefighter trainees signed on, trained, physically fit and certified. “And when I get a call, I will have 20 on a roster and will be able to send a crew out to battle the fires,” said Sinclair. “Currently we have a crew in Cherokee, N.C., supporting the Cherokee Nation. And they are available all year round. Last year the [wildland] crew went to Alaska.”

SRFD firefighter Leaf Lake provides the mentorship for the incoming youth to be successful.

“When we get out there on a fire assignment, it’s 20 people per crew and it’s very structured. There will be overhead structures in the crew to support the Community participants when they do get deployed,” said Lake.

In the past, about 30 participants from the program moved on to permanent employment positions, whether it’s with the U.S. Forest Service or tribal or community fire departments.

“It’s really cool to see these kids and see what they have to offer,” said Rocha.