Oak Creek Fire preps a dozen new hires for wildfire season | SteamboatToday.com

Oak Creek Fire preps a dozen new hires for wildfire season

Oak Creek Fire welcomed 12 new hires to its Wildland Fire Division for the 2023 wildfire season. The crew is already undergoing training.
Oak Creek Fire/Courtesy photo

Oak Creek Fire’s Wildland Fire Division is gearing up for another season with 12 new hires including a new battalion chief.

This group is in addition to Oak Creek Fire’s current personnel who are already trained to fight wildland and structure fires, in addition to providing emergency medical services.

With training under way, the department is getting its ducks in a row with four Type 3 engines and two Type 6 engines. While the Wildland Fire Division is located in Oak Creek, its Type 3 fire engines are available to send anywhere in the nation.

The crew will dispatch based on orders received through a national service called The Interagency Resource Ordering Capability, or IROC. The group will be led by Battalion Chief Ian Satterfield, who hails from Reno, Nevada, and brings decades of experience in fire protection after starting his career in 1996.

The new hires range from all over, but in recent years, Oak Creek Fire has been pulling graduates from a firefighting school — Hutchinson Community College Fire Science in Kansas — and that has created a type of recruiting pool for the department.

Chief Satterfield said one major draw in hiring these graduates is that they come to the department already trained to fight wildland fires.

“I came from the Hutchinson Community College fire program, so I knew some people that came up here,” said Madyson Foth, one of the new members in Oak Creek’s Wildland Fire Division. “Having people I know who have done this and having the training down, I believe, have made this transition much easier for me.”

Other new hires took different avenues to the department, such as Ryan Steinbruner, who learned the ropes of wildland firefighting through AmeriCorps working with the Larimer County Conservation Corps. 

While Oak Creek has a relatively young crew, some of the newest hires come with some experience. For example, Alberto Leyva has spent two years fighting wildland fires.

This is a fairly competitive industry and those looking to join can put out numerous applications before finding a station. New hire John Cooper said he applied for about a hundred of these positions before finding the right fit at Oak Creek.

Satterfield said the group goes through refreshers to make sure they stay sharp on what they learned during training. Currently, seven of the new members are in Minnesota providing another wildland division support with prescribed fires.

With prescribed fires, Satterfield said the goal is to reduce the fire danger by clearing out problem areas with firefighter-initiated burns.

“It’s a great opportunity for our younger folks to learn fire behavior and fire experience at a lower level versus at the extreme wildfire level where it’s out of control,” Satterfield said. “Being able to do the control measure shows our newer folks just what fire behavior looks like and how to control it.”

Although the fire danger is dependent on many factors including the weather and snowmelt, the National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook currently shows that Routt County should experience normal fire danger levels from May to August. 

Satterfield noted that he does not anticipate too crazy of a fire season this year given the amount of precipitation and current weather conditions.

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