Yurok Tribe Partners with Women in Fire Program

Yurok Tribe and National Park Service Press Release

Yurok Firefighter, Faith Tracy.

Through the Yurok Tribe’s partnership with Redwood National Park, the Yurok Fire Department was  selected to train four female firefighters for the National Park Service’s forward-looking Women in Fire Program.  

“It is a huge privilege to train these firefighters for the Women in Fire Program,” said Yurok Fire Chief Rod  Mendes, who has trained hundreds of firefighters. “We look forward to providing four Native American  women the skills and experience they need to acquire good-paying jobs with tribal, federal or state wildland  fire departments.”  

“It is the goal of this program to recruit, train, and offer exposure to multiple aspects of wildland fire in  addition to exposure to the planning and implementation of prescribed fire projects,” said Redwood National  Park Fire Management Officer Rick Young. “After completion of this program the participants will not only  be able to compete for a career in wildland fire as a crewperson, but hopefully be inspired to continue on to  become future leaders in the fire service. I’m excited to partner with the Yurok Tribe in this effort and I  hope to expand the program in the coming years, creating more opportunities for a large segment of our  community that is currently underrepresented within the fire service.” 

With $100,000 from the National Park Service (NPS), the Yurok Fire Department is recruiting four Native American women to participate in the paid program. Once hired, the Yurok Fire Department will put the  women through an intensive wildland fire training academy focused on the fundamentals of wildland  firefighting. Based out of the department’s headquarters on the Yurok Reservation, the comprehensive training will be comprised of classroom instruction and hands on skill-building exercises. The classroom part  of the course will cover a wide variety of topics, such as wildland fire behavior, firefighting tactics and the  Incident Command System, as well as communications, fire line safety and situational awareness. In the field,  the four trainees will perform exercises with many different forms of firefighting equipment, ranging from  fire pumps to chainsaws. They will also learn to work as a team. 

The in-depth training will prepare program participants to pass the written and physical tests required to  receive an interagency-certified Incident Qualifications Card, or Red Card, and a Firefighter 2 credential,  which will qualify them to land firefighting jobs anywhere in the United States.  

After they complete the training and certification process, the four women will work out of the Yurok fire  house in Tulley Creek. On a daily basis, the firefighters will be assigned duties and respond to calls for service as members of the Yurok fire crew until the end of the 2023 fire season. Their duties may include fighting  local forest fires, participating in cultural burns on tribal lands and managing woodland fuels to protect elders’ homes. The female firefighters will also spend stints with Redwood National Park and US Forest Service fire  crews, which will further expand their skillsets. 

The Yurok Fire Department is the first tribal firefighting organization to administer the transformational  Women in Fire Program in California. The National Park Service launched the program in 2021 in an effort  to make its workforce more resilient and encourage more females to pursue leadership positions within in the  male-dominated profession. Women currently make up just 12% of the federal wildland fire workforce. The  Yurok Tribe and the park service recognize that diversity drives innovation, which is needed now more than  ever before as the land managers confront climate change, drought and longer, more severe fire seasons. Prior  to partnering with the Yurok Fire Department, NPS implemented Women in Fire Programs with  conservation corps in multiple states.  

The Yurok Fire Department is an all-risk, all-hazard organization that focuses on fire detection, prevention  and suppression in conjunction with traditional and conventional fuels management. The chartered tribal  agency fights wildfires in the local area and across the US. In addition to extinguishing fires, the Yurok crew  conducts cultural burns to moderate forest fuel loads, improve wildlife habitat and increase access to  traditional basket-weaving materials on tribal lands. When they are not contending with fires or performing  controlled burns, the Yurok crew works on projects that reduce fire risk on the reservation.  

Yurok Fire Chief Rod Mendes.

The Yurok Fire Department is led by Chief Rod Mendes. Chief Mendes has more than 35 years of fire officer leadership experience, including lengthy terms as a District Fire Management Officer for the Klamath  National Forest and as the Chief of Fire and Office of Emergency Services for the Hoopa Valley Tribe, and  over 20 years with Inter-agency Incident Management teams. He is also a governor-appointed member of  California’s Homeland Security Advisory Committee. Chief Mendes will design and oversee the Women in  Fire Program training. 

“I can say from experience Chief Mendes is a tremendous resource for new firefighters, especially those who  want to climb the ranks. The park service couldn’t have selected a better mentor for participants in the Women  in Fire Program,” concluded Yurok Firefighter and Yurok citizen Faith Tracy.  

To apply for the Women in Fire Program on the Yurok Reservation, please fill out the Yurok  Tribe employment application, which can be found here: www.yuroktribe.org/jobopportunities.