When wildland fires hit our national parks, it’s critical that the NPS employees tasked with fighting those fires are furnished with the safest materials and equipment possible. It’s something that Bill Yohn – National Wildland Fire Equipment and Facilities Program Manager at the National Interagency Fire Center – works on daily at the Center’s Boise, ID base. Yohn ensures that wildland firefighters have the best equipment possible that meets the specifications of their parks’ natural landscape. Overseeing fleet equipment like fire engines, water tenders, crew carriers, and pickup trucks, as well as the construction of park fire facilities, Yohn seeks to make wildland firefighting as safe as possible for the parks’ often-seasonal firefighting crews. Yohn is especially delighted when he sees the product of his work put into action: “my favorite part of my job is seeing the fire apparatus I purchased for our wildland firefighters being used in parks during fire management operations. These days I get to see many more examples because of NPS’ great social media presence.”
Starting out as a firefighter in Olympic National Park in 1990, Yohn knows first-hand the challenges of wildland firefighting. “Not long after guard school – basic fire training – there was a small lightning fire. Me and a couple other people hiked in with a backpack of tools, carrying all our gear, and we stayed there for a couple of days while putting it out.” Wildland fire can change park landscapes drastically, and does so more often than volcanoes, earthquakes, or floods. While at first Yohn was just looking for seasonal work in the parks, after his first summer he decided to stay on. “After that experience, it was the adventure of working and exploring vast expansive wilderness, while helping others to do the same, that sealed the deal.” Now working in NPS’ Wildland and Fire Management Program, Yohn’s work helps firefighters stay safe and effective in our parks. “The thing that makes me really excited about my job today is that I’m in a position to help get the safest fleet and equipment for firefighters that are just starting out like I did.”
While Yohn isn’t stationed in one particular park, he still enjoys exploring all the National Park System has to offer. One of his favorite spots is Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, close to his hometown, which he recently visited. “Never overlook the quieter, less traveled opportunities. I loved going back and experiencing the history.”
Behind every national park is a team of ordinary people dedicated to maintaining the extraordinary. They maintain habitats, educate visitors, and preserve history. They’re volunteers, rangers, museum curators, engineers, architects, and more. They’re our Park Ambassadors – linking us to these treasured places and all the stories they hold. Send thanks to an NPS employee or volunteer today.
The “National Park Ambassadors” video series is produced by the National Park Foundation and its Find Your Park premier partners Budweiser, HanesBrands, L.L.Bean, Nature Valley, Subaru of America and Union Pacific Railroad, with additional support from The Coca-Cola Company and Winnebago Industries.