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Salt River Firefighters Assist in National Wildfires

Members of the Salt River Fire Department have teamed up with the Tribal Nations Response Team (TNRT) to help battle wildfires in Arizona and surrounding states. The TNRT consists of members of tribal communities’ fire services and tribal members who are seasonal firefighters for state and national fires. About 15 SRFD members take part in the TNRT, including some Community members who have trained to become on-call firefighters.

This season, SRFD Fire Captain Robert Scabby has been sent to the Elk Fire in Quemado, New Mexico; along with two of his colleagues, firefighter/paramedic Jason Barker and firefighter/paramedic Dylan Bryan, he also went to help fight the Woodbury Fire in Arizona.

“The Elk Fire was a type II fire, which is just below the highest level wildfire,” said Scabby. “There I was sent up to work in the incident command post for a week, doing planning and resources.”

At the Woodbury Fire, a type I fire, Scabby explained that Barker and Bryan were placed in the camp crew. They helped with all different functions such as handing out food, picking up trash, working in supplies and moving equipment.

“They are like the jack-of-all-trades and are really busy working in the camp crew,” said Scabby.

About 15 members of the wildland fire team get assigned to the wildfires locally and nationally, including a former Salt River High School student and a couple of SRPMIC members who are active with the TNRT. It has taken TNRT members to Washington, Idaho, Oregon, New Mexico, California and other locations to fight wildfires.

The SRFD has been an active part of the TNRT for the last three years, and those involved get about four assignments each year. The wildfire season traditionally runs from April to September, but it’s almost year-round now.

Anyone can join the TNRT. Applications are taken between October and December. Applicants will take the rookie academy course, for basic wildland and firefighting training. After that they undergo a physical screening; if the applicant passes the screening, they will then go on to a pack test, which is a 3-mile walk while wearing a 45-pound vest that must be completed within 45 minutes. Participants who pass all those tests move on to an interview process to see what kind of skill and experience they will bring to the program. The final part of the admission process is getting a “red card,” which is the key to fighting wildfires nationally.

“Wildland firefighting is a great opportunity,” said Scabby. “It is seasonal work and it’s a good way for tribal members to provide for their families. It’s a process, but it’s not that difficult; applicants just need to follow through with all the steps.”

Watch for recruiting and advertising for new applicants for TNRT this fall. For more information on the TNRT, visit www.facebook.com/TribalNationsResponseTeam/ on Facebook or call (520) 562-3974.