Fighting Our Nation’s Wildfires | WTCS Skip to content

Fighting Our Nation’s Wildfires

Watching the news of the western wildfires in Fall 2020, and thinking about millions of acres of scorched earth and lives lost has been unimaginable to me. Every fire season I think about our Wildland Firefighter graduates who are working so hard to get these fires under control. The son of one of our own staff members has been serving our country in this role recently and I’d like to share a little of his story with you.

Luke Pautz graduated with an AAS degree in Wildland Firefighter in May 2019. From June-October 2019 he worked on an engine crew in the Fremont-Winema National Forest in Oregon. From January-April 2020 he relocated to an engine crew in the national forests of South Carolina and then headed back to Oregon for the summer fire season May-September 2020. Starting next month, employed by the U.S. Forest Service, he will take an assignment in the Mark Twain National Forest headquarters in Poplar Bluff, Missouri on their engine crew.

During Luke’s early career assignments he has worked on two major fires thus far: the Saddle Mountain Fire in Washington state in July and the August Crane Fire in Oregon that involved 14 days straight of 5 a.m.-8 p.m. duty. When not working a fire, this role involves night patrols through forests and grasslands looking for signs of wildfires caused by lightning, maintaining or repairing equipment and gear, and working out at the ranger station to stay in shape. As you might imagine, this work requires exceptional physical fitness and passing arduous fitness and stamina tests as a contingency of being hired on each new assignment.

Luke spent 2-1/2 years of study at the university system before coming to Fox Valley Technical College and discovering a career path that he was truly passionate about. Each of us can be very grateful for all of the men and women like Luke who have the passion, the skill, and the willingness to serve us in such an important and challenging role.