Jay Wickham named new State Wildland Fire Division Director

Sign pointing to the entrance of the South Dakota State Wildland Fire Division.
Sign pointing to the entrance of the South Dakota State Wildland Fire Division.(KOTA/KEVN)
Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 5:58 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - A longtime wildland firefighter was named the new director of the South Dakota State Wildland Fire Division by the Department of Public Safety. Jay Wickham, who worked as a deputy director for the wildland fire division replaces former Chief Jay Esperance.

Wickham, who started his role on June 24, held numerous roles involving wildland fire management, including leadership roles in Mitchell and Custer as well as Chief of Operations and Deputy Director in Rapid City, which he says helped prepare him for his new leadership role.

“As a deputy, I’ve been involved in quite a few of the director-type things that are going on in the operation of our agency. So, it was a smooth transition and it’s early on still, at this point still a smooth and easy transition,” said the 24-year veteran of the wildland fire profession.

It’s smooth sailing, because of Wickham’s longtime dedication to fire protection and prevention. He said he was once told it takes three to five years to be comfortable in a position, but his time settling in might be just a little easier. “I kind of know the cycle of the year already so knowing that obviously, it is going to help with the surprises that would normally happen.”

In the middle of fire season, Wickham does not want to make changes right away, but he said the changes that could occur won’t be noticeable to the public. “Nothing that the public is going to notice anyway really. So, I think changing as far as how we go about hiring positions, again advertising our positions getting the word out,” said Wickham.

Hiring is Wickham’s first obstacle to tackle, and he already has ideas and ways to help fill his empty roles.

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