Started in 2010, the SCA Veterans Fire Corps trains and engages teams of recent-era military veterans in wildland ﬁre mitigation and forestry. Projects include fuels reduction, ﬁre effects monitoring, educational outreach, pre-ﬁre preparation of burn units, and participation in prescribed ﬁres.
Since August, an SCA team of veterans has been based out of Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest in Colorado, and they complete their service on November 10, the eve of Veterans Day. SCA thanks Veterans Fire Corps members Marvin Gil, Elijah Johnston, and Henry Ferendo for the opportunity to share their stories and, of course, for their ongoing service.
SCA: With many different options to serve, what drives your desire to protect communities from fire dangers?
Marvin: I have a pretty giving spirit, which is something I’ve been reluctant to outwardly display, as I’ve always been reserved and private. In the U.S. Navy, we were trained in emergency response, along with procedures to handle portions of fires until those with fire training arrived. This led to my interest in emergency response, which I did not act on until much later.
Marvin Gil during firefighting training at Colorado Firecamp.
SCA: How did you eventually follow through on those interests?
Marvin: It started with becoming a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) member, which taught me how to put out small fires. My interest grew and in another community that I lived in, I pursued that interest as a volunteer firefighter for structure fires. After learning of wildland fires and viewing events in California, I was looking for opportunities and discovered the SCA Veterans Fire Corps.
SCA: How about you two?
Elijah: I’ve always had a drive to work in the public service field, which is why I joined the Army in the first place. I also have a passion for the outdoors which makes wildland fires a great field for me.
Chainsaw maintenance with Elijah Johnston.
Henry: I enjoy this work because I feel a sense purpose from being a part of it.
Henry Ferendo after lighting a pile.
SCA: What do you consider the most rewarding part of being a Corps member?
Marvin: The reciprocity. I enjoy the ability to interact with like veterans with the same interests, aid humanity, work with other agencies, and learn from experienced individuals as well as organizations.
Elijah: For me, the most rewarding part of the program is looking around at the end of each day and realizing how much work we were able to accomplish. Now that the season is winding to a close, it is pretty cool to be able to look back and see how many new skills we’ve been able to learn.
Henry: My favorite part of the Veterans Fire Corps program was meeting and working with many genuine people that I can relate to and share common goals with.
Marvin: I’ve also enjoyed visiting different states and environments, corresponding with people from SCA, and being part of a really big network of informed beings – all while being taken out of my comfort zone and learning the sciences of live events.
SCA is grateful to all veterans for their service and sacrifices, and encourages you to remember those who have served in uniform this Veterans Day.