YFD first tribal organization to host National Park Service program in California
Through the Yurok Tribe’s partnership with Redwood National Park, the Yurok Fire Department was selected to train four female firefighters for the National Park Service’s forward-looking Women in Fire Program.
“It is a huge privilege to train these firefighters for the Women in Fire Program,” said Yurok Fire Chief Rod Mendes, who has trained hundreds of firefighters. “We look forward to providing four Native American women the skills and experience they need to acquire good paying jobs with tribal, federal or state wildland fire departments.”
"It is the goal of this program to recruit, train, and offer exposure to multiple aspects of wildland fire in addition to exposure to the planning and implementation of prescribed fire projects,” said Redwood National Park Fire Management Officer Rick Young. “After completion of this program the participants will not only be able to compete for a career in wildland fire as a crewperson, but hopefully be inspired to continue on to become future leaders in the fire service. I’m excited to partner with the Yurok Tribe in this effort and I hope to expand the program in the coming years, creating more opportunities for a large segment of our community that is currently underrepresented within the fire service."
With $100,000 from the National Park Service (NPS), the Yurok Fire Department is recruiting four Native American women to participate in the paid program. Once hired, the Yurok Fire Department will put the women through an intensive wildland fire training academy focused on the fundamentals of wildland firefighting. Based out of the department’s headquarters on the Yurok Reservation, the comprehensive training will be comprised of classroom instruction and hands on skill building exercises. The classroom part of the course will cover a wide variety of topics, such as wildland fire behavior firefighting tactics and the Incident Command System, as well as communications, fire line safety and situational awareness. In the field, the four trainees will perform exercises with many different forms of firefighting equipment, ranging from fire pumps to chainsaws. They will also learn to work as a team.
The in-depth training will prepare program participants to pass the written and physical tests required to receive an interagency certified Incident Qualifications Card or Red Card and a Firefighter 2 credential, which will qualify them to land firefighting jobs anywhere in the United States.
After they complete the training and certification process, the four women will work out of the Yurok fire house in Tulley Creek. On a daily basis, the firefighters will be assigned duties and respond to calls for service as members of the Yurok fire crew until the end of the 2023 fire season Their duties may include fighting local forest fires participating in cultural burns on tribal lands and managing woodland fuels to protect elders homes The female firefighters will also spend stints with Redwood National Park and US Forest Service fire crews, which will further expand their skillsets.
The Yurok Fire Department is the first tribal firefighting organization to administer the transformational Women in Fire Program in California. The National Park Service launched the program in 2021 in an effort to make its workforce more resilient and encourage more females to pursue leadership positions within in the male dominated profession. Women currently make up just 12% of the federal wildland fire workforce. The Yurok Tribe and the park service recognize that diversity drives innovation, which is needed now more than ever before as the land managers confront climate change, drought and longer, more severe fire seasons. Prior to partnering with the Yurok Fire Department, NPS implemented Women in Fire Programs with conservation corps in multiple states.
The Yurok Fire Department is an all risk, all hazard organization that focuses on fire detection, prevention and suppression in conjunction with traditional and conventional fuels management. The chartered tribal agency fights wildfires in the local area and across the US. In addition to extinguishing fires, the Yurok crew conducts cultural burns to moderate forest fuel loads, improve wildlife habitat and increase access to traditional basket weaving materials on tribal lands. When they are not contending with fires or performing controlled burns, the Yurok crew works on projects that reduce fire risk on the reservation.
The Yurok Fire Department is led by Chief Rod Mendes. Chief Mendes has more than 35 years of fire officer leadership experience, including lengthy terms as a District Fire Management Officer for the Klamath National Forest and as the Chief of Fire and Office of Emergency Services for the Hoopa Valley Tribe, and over 20 years with Inter agency Incident Management teams. He is also a governor appointed member of California’s Homeland Security Advisory Committee. Chief Mendes will design and oversee the Women in Fire Program training.
“I can say from experience Chief Mendes is a tremendous resource for new firefighters, especially those who want to climb the ranks. The park service couldn’t have selected a better mentor for participants in the Women in Fire Program,” concluded Yurok Firefighter and Yurok citizen Faith Tracy.
To apply for the Women in Fire Program on the Yurok Reservation, please fill out the Yurok Tribe employment application, which can be found here: https:/https://www.yuroktribe.org/job-opportunities