Forest Service Protects Resources Year Round
Gratitude abounds for the beauty of the Deschutes National Forest (DNF). After another dramatic fire season in the Pacific Northwest, and with the DNF encompassing nearly 1.6 million acres, we are thankful for the Forest Service that keeps our environment safe year round. The role of the Deschutes National Forest’s USDA Fire Service is multi-faceted in the fire-adapted ecosystem of Central Oregon: it landscapes and preps forest land, fights wildfire, and recovers the land after fire season while also managing recreation and education. For this mission, the agency relies on a multitude of workers, many of them volunteers. “We are grateful to have the largest volunteer program in the country of any forest program,” says Public Affairs Officer for the Deschutes National Forest, Jean Nelson-Dean. For the Forest Service—both staff and volunteers, we are grateful too.
With a grandfather, mother, father, two uncles and a cousin who worked in the Forest Service, Larae Guillory grew up in Wallowa, Oregon where she learned to be a steward of the land. It was natural to join what she calls the “family business.” By nine years old, she had already written a letter that proclaimed her plan for the future, which included working on fire engines and being a crew boss. “So far,” she says, “I have done all that and more.” Guillory has been a Hotshot, senior firefighter, rappeller and squad leader. “I was always taught to respect land, respect wildlife, and to give back even in small ways,” Guillory says. She was taught the land is for the public and for generations to come. We can all be stewards of the land she adds, by leaving the land better than you found it—”It’s very tangible for each of us to do our part.”
Asa Fields grew up in the small town of Withee, Wisconsin and became interested in the Forest Service to pursue an active, intense outdoor job where he would get to travel, be challenged mentally and physically and learn new skills. He has learned that fighting wildfire relies on layers of tasks. While Fields worked crews fighting the Milli and Nash Fires of 2017, and the Boxcar and Umpqua complex fires of 2018, he is fascinated at the science behind fire. “It’s very interesting to learn more about the science behind what a fire is doing and how the decisions on fighting it are made,” he says. An assignment fighting a wildfire might be collecting detailed intelligence on the fire such as: live fuel moisture samples to estimate fire spread potential, recon on a fire to find ideal lookout locations, escape routes, safety zones and sizing up roads/trails as possible fire lines. “It’s humbling to be a cog in the machine of fighting a fire,” Fields says. “Even small tasks get things done for the greater good.”
The care of a vital natural resource like the Deschutes National Forest consists of year-round maintenance: from landscaping to controlled burns. An Assistant Fire Engine Operator, John Bitzberger is also a peer leader where he enjoys working with the workforce that puts in attention and care to learn about forest management. Originally from Riverside, California and now based in Crescent, Oregon, Bitzberger says, “I felt a calling to help people, teach, and have a larger role in society.” He pursued work for the Forest Service where he says: “What I enjoy most about my job is being able to serve my country, help people in need and being a great leader to the younger firefighters that I work with day to day.” Kassidy Kern, public affairs specialist for the Deschutes National Forest adds, “This work means something to the community and there’s real pride in that.”