On their latest podcast episode, the Living With Fire team interviewed August Isernhagen, Division Chief of Wildland Fuels with Truckee Meadows Fire and Rescue, about his career as a wildland firefighter. Isernhagen shares some highlights and challenges he’s experienced along the way, as well as some tips for residents if they ever come in contact with wildland firefighters.
“Approach them as a trained professional. This is what they chose to do as their trade and show them that respect, in their expertise, for what they know,” said Isernhagen.
Most wildland firefighting jobs are “seasonal” which means that firefighters work in the summer when they are needed to suppress fires. Sometimes they stay on throughout the fall to support fuels management projects like prescribed burning but are often laid-off in the winter.
Isernhagen describes his early career as a seasonal firefighter with the Nevada Division of Forestry (NDF), “I eventually fell into a rhythm,” he said.
He also enjoyed the excitement of the job. “I like traveling, another exciting piece about wildland fires is on top of not knowing what’s going to happen today, you don’t know where you’re going to end up today. And so, I’ve been on fires all over the western United States.”
However, maintaining a seasonal lifestyle became a challenge when he and his wife began having children.
“My wife and I had our first child and I got laid off. I was happy being a seasonal, I thought I could do that forever, but then we had that first winter without health insurance and a brand-new baby at home–so it was time to grow up,” Isernhagen explains.
Isernhagen continued to work at the Nevada Division of Forestry (NDF) for 18 years. He moved up through the ranks and became a crew boss, enabling him to work year-round. In 2020, he Joined Truckee Meadows Fire and Rescue as the Division Chief of Wildland Fuels. There, he oversees the department’s wildland fire crews and their efforts to mitigate the wildfire risk in Washoe County by reducing hazardous vegetation.
When reflecting on his career so far, Isernhagen said that what he has enjoyed the most about being a wildland firefighter is the camaraderie between him and his colleagues.
“You know, I had close friends in high school, I had close friends in college, but by far, my closest friends in the world are those thatI’ve fought fire with over the years.
Listen to the entire episode at livingwithfire.com/podcastor search “Living With Fire” on your podcast app of choice.
For more information about Truckee Meadows Fire and Rescue’s Wildland Fuels Reduction Program go to https://tmfpd.us/wildland-fuels-reduction/.
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