A Year on the Great Smoky Mountains Wildland Fire Module

Article Author:
Isaac Hopkins, CAC AmeriCorps Member 2016-2017

Hello, my name is Isaac Hopkins and I am a current member of CAC Americorps. I fill the position of crew member on the Great Smoky Mountain Nation Park Wildland Fire Module.

IMG_0252I never knew I wanted to really do fire until I joined this crew. I graduated from Iowa State University with an undergrad in Forestry. While in college I received the necessary required training for wildland firefighting. The reason I chose forestry was because I have passion for the natural resource and because I really enjoy working outside. I never was someone who could work all day in an office. Therefore, I began doing work, while in college, such as timber stand improvement and arborist work. The work I did got me more familiar with chainsaw. Over the many years of working with a chainsaw I have felled trees, removed brush and worked on a crew doing the same work. When I saw this position on the CAC Americorps’ home page I knew that I wanted to participate. Once I got it I didn’t know what to expect. I did, however, know that I was in for a ride of my life and a position that I would soon make into a career.

During my time with CAC AmeriCorps on the module with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park I have learned a lot, gained pertinent necessary experience and met many great people. This position has allowed me to travel to places and experience things that I could have only dreamed of. Yes, this position is an amazing one because it is very unique. But it has not at all been easy. I have had to train my body to go through long hours of physical labor. I have learned that flexibility is key. At any moment during my time I have to be ready to go on a fire. With that, sacrifices have to be made. The people I have become closest with are the ones that I work with. I haven’t had the time to go to Knoxville and spend time with the other members as much as I would like. At the beginning of the year I did make a lot of good connections but as the season went on isolation became more of a friend because I was so far away, and serving long and unique hours. But time went on and I accepted it. Staying busy has been key part to this position. There is ALWAYS something to do.

Now that I have explained the hardship let me say that I have gotten to travel to places such as Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Within the southeastern region states I have gotten to go on disaster relief, prescribed and wildfire operations, and just travel through and see the wonders of these states. I have gotten the chance to live on Cumberland Island for a week doing storm relief from Hurricane Mathew. That was a lot of fun. I have seen a lot of fire in my first year and hope to see a lot more. While on these fires I have been tasked with missions such as felling trees, digging fire line, burning out operations, and holding the fire line during firing operations.

Now, this position ISN’T for everyone. If you are wanting a career in fire then I do suggest applying to this, but if not, then look at other fire program opportunities. This is a group of highly trained and skilled folks who want to help increase the knowledge for everyone on the crew. As I mentioned before I came into this crew knowing about chainsaw, natural resources and I had my certifications for wildland fire.

 I have really enjoyed my time on this crew so far and look forward to seeing what the rest of the season has in store for us. I look to hearing what the new GRSM WFM CAC Americorps Member brings to this great crew. The best of luck to all applicants.

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This blog post is a collection of personal reflections and expressions. All opinions represented are those of the author and do not represent the official opinion or views of the Knoxville – Knox County Community Action Committee, CAC AmeriCorps or any other party referenced.