Veterans find work fighting fires - KOTA Territory News

Veterans find work fighting fires

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During the summer the risk of wildfires rises, so a six-man crew is doing what it can to prevent that in the Bighorn National Forest.

"We take out the ladder fuels, the fuels that could potentially ignite and then catch the canopy of the forest on fire," said crew leader Michael Madalena.

The entire crew is made up of military veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and their skill set fits well with this type of work.

"A lot of it goes hand-in-hand with the radio lingo, how we operate as a team again, the ability to actually make a decision and go with it," said Madalena.

The U.S. Forest Service is working with the Student Conservation Association to provide jobs for veterans returning form overseas and meet pressing conservation needs.

"When we do start getting small fires, initial attack fires, it's going to be a real help to have some extra bodies around.  They come physically fit, ready to work," said fire management officer Curtis Rasmuson with the Forest Service's Powder River Ranger Office.

The veterans out here look at this as an opportunity to kick start their new careers.

"I'm in the conservation field.  I'm going to school right now for wildlife management," said crew member Tyler Barriere.

"Protecting the environment and being out in the wilderness like this, it's living life," said Madalena.

The job is only for the summer but the veterans leave with training and experience to move forward.

"Great certifications; the guard's school, the fire certification, the chainsaw certification," said Barriere.

There are six other veterans fire corps crews working in the Rocky Mountain region including one in the Black Hills National Forest.

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