Today, Governor Martinez met with men and women training to become members of New Mexico's new Military Veteran Wildland Firefighter Pilot Program. The new program was announced earlier this month by Governor Martinez at a news conference recognizing Wildfire Awareness Week. The pilot program is a joint effort between New Mexico State Forestry, the Department of Veteran Services, and the New Mexico Workforce Connection.
"New Mexico's veterans have made remarkable contributions to our state and our country," said Governor Martinez. "We owe it to them to help them find employment when they return to civilian life. The veteran wildland firefighter program will be a great resource as we prepare for what could be a very active fire season. I salute all the veterans who are taking part in this program and thank them for their continued service to the people of New Mexico."
Since the program was officially announced, applications to fill 40 available positions have been accepted and training for the first group of veterans began this week. The training culminated today with class participants going through firefighter hand crew field exercises. Today's field training consisted of teaching students how to hand build containment lines, the use of various hand tools and working in concert with engine crews.
After several very active fire seasons in recent years, the Veteran Fire Crew Pilot Program was created to address the need for more wildland firefighters in the state. The pilot program will employ 40 armed services veterans as seasonal firefighters, who will be assigned to one of four hand crews. These crews will join approximately 250 other seasonal State Forestry wildland firefighters and will be available for assignment to wildfires throughout the state. The crews will also be available for fire assignments out of state, once New Mexico's fire season has ended.