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Fire Team Member Brings Sense of Adventure to Colorado’s Forests

“I'm proud to be part of a team that works to prevent the catastrophic wildfires we are seeing in Colorado.”

-Gary Yetter
Southern Rockies Wildlife Fire Module

The Annapurna Circuit, a stunning 100 plus-mile trek through central Nepal, is where Gary Yetter first became interested in fighting fires.

Hiking between two small villages along the remote Himalayan route, Yetter met three American members from the Flagstaff Hotshots, a wildland fire crew in Arizona, and his curiosity was sparked.  

“Firefighting is something I stumbled on late in life, compared to most,” Yetter remarks about his current career. “The people you meet have similar interests — they love to travel and be outside.”

Certainly, Yetter fits the bill.

Born in Washington State, Yetter has worked on a fishing boat off Australia’s coast, surveyed ice shelf movement at the South Pole, and explored the remote regions of New Zealand and Southeast Asia.

He now works as the newest member of The Nature Conservancy’s Southern Rockies Wildland Fire Module, bringing with him a love of adventure and new experiences.

Yetter started his career interning with the Student Conservation Association in New Mexico, an AmeriCorps partner program where he worked as a fire-effects monitor. He later worked for the Grand Teton Helitack, fighting fires by helicopter, before joining the Wildland Fire Module in April 2013.

The Module, a part of The Nature Conservancy, works to manage and monitor controlled burns around the state, helping to restore and maintain the health of Colorado’s forests. The Module also helps local, state and federal agencies manage naturally ignited wildland fires for community protection and natural resource benefits.

Yetter and the team spend five to seven months each year doing controlled burns in Colorado and the surrounding region.  

Fire plays a vital role in forest health, recycling nutrients and revitalizing habitats for plants and animals. Prescribed burns — highly planned and regulated fires that the Module implements — help restore the natural cycle that human activity has altered. They also reduce the potential for extremely damaging mega-fires.

“I received my degree in botany, and the science background definitely ties in well to the ecological role of the burns we do,” Yetter explains.

The Nature Conservancy’s Fire Module, led by Module Leader Jeff Crandall, is the only non-governmental wildland fire module in the country. The crew has trained more than 200 fire managers and assisted a wide variety of partners in managing fires to benefit both nature and people.

Along with its focus on prescribed burns, Yetter joined the Module because of the caliber of people on the seven-person team. “Everyone is very qualified and very experienced,” says Yetter.

With severe drought conditions across the West and last summer’s fire history, the upcoming months are sure to be busy ones for Yetter and the rest of the team.

“I'm intrigued by firefighting,” Yetter says. “I'm proud to be part of a team that works to prevent the catastrophic wildfires we are seeing in Colorado.”

In the Module’s off season, you’ll find Yetter exploring the streets of Bangkok, wandering through the Batad Rice Terraces in the Philippines, or summiting a new peak in the Himalayas. Come April and May though, Yetter will be immersed in his newest adventure — conserving Colorado's forests.   

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