September 11, 2018
These foresters started with a student organization: now they are fighting wildfires out west
by Hannah Erickson
CARBONDALE, Ill. — Forest fires in the western part of the United States have increased rapidly in recent decades, and the wildfire season is lasting longer than ever before.
As of midsummer in 2018, three times as much land in California had been burned compared with the same period the year before. That’s why a team of Southern Illinois University Carbondale forestry alumni have joined the fight to protect homes and land in the west.
When fighting fires, Wade Bloemer said there is only one constant: change. Being flexible and ready to adjust is the only way to suppress the raging fires. For Bloemer, SIU graduate and district forester for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, this knowledge comes from six years of experience fighting western wildfires.
Crew from Illinois includes previous SIU forestry students
To assist in the national effort against wildfires, the IDNR sponsors an interagency crew containing type 1 and type 2 firefighters, EMT’s, foresters, resource managers and others. The 2018 crew features multiple SIU alumni who have been deployed to places such as Idaho, Utah and Oregon.
For 2014 forestry graduate Caleb Grantham fighting wildfires is a rigorous and challenging endeavor. But having a team makes all the difference.
“Everyone is very well trained and has taken multiple training courses and received certifications to build their own fire resumes and experience. This is also something to take into consideration and is rewarding to know that everyone on the fire line with you is very well qualified and dependable for their role as a firefighter,” Grantham said.
The teams are usually deployed to an area of high concern for two or three week periods. While there, they split into squads and cover the region they are briefed on. At night, they camp out …