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Kelly Martin - Chief of Fire and Aviation Management“Northland really and truly changed my life,” says Kelly Martin, chief of fire and aviation management in Yosemite National Park.
Even before she completed her degree in outdoor education from Northland, Kelly was starting her career with the National Park Service as a co-op student working for the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. That experience paved the way for a post-collegiate position as an interpretive ranger in Grand Canyon National Park. There, monitoring small fires in remote areas of the park, she got her first taste of wildfire. Kelly was hooked.
She left the National Park Service in 1990 to pursue a career in wildland firefighting with the Forest Service. A young woman in a heavily male-dominated field, Kelly set out to be the best at what she loved.
Between 1990 and 2006, she worked fire details in Idaho, California, Utah, and Nevada. Kelly rose through the ranks to become a fire management officer first in Moab, Utah and then Carson City, Nevada. In 2006, she returned to the National Park Service as an expert in wildfire, and ready to serve as the head of fire management in America’s premier national park: Yosemite.
Kelly oversees all of the fire related activities in the park. She supervises monitoring and suppression efforts, prescribed burns, and research. She also manages the helicopter and crew used during the peak of the season for both fire activities and search and rescue efforts, of which there are many.
Unlike many seasonal wildfire positions, Kelly’s work continues through the winter. The off-season is when plans are made, and a park like Yosemite requires a lot of planning.
Part of her job is to make sure that fire can serve its purpose in the park without putting people at risk, and that requires educating the public about the need for fire in the ecosystem.
“Ever so slightly, people are beginning to understand why we need fire” she says. “But not everyone is going to buy into that quite yet. There’s still a ways to go.” Many visitors to the park, and local residents, still view fire as a tragedy, not an integral part of a natural process.
Kelly credits her Northland education not only with introducing her to the Park Service, but also with giving her the communication skills she needs to be a successful leader.
Kelly Martin, chief of fire and aviation management, hikes through an area of burned over forest from a recent fire.
Kelly oversees all of the aviation that supports fire and search and rescue efforts in Yosemite National Park.
The View from Abovehttp://www.northland.edu/assets/js/outcomes/TinySlideshow/photos/fire-3.jpg
H-551, the helicopter and crew that are stationed in the park during the peak of the fire season, give Kelly a birds eye view of fires.
Yosemite National Park is home to some of the most iconic rock formations in the world including Half Dome and El Capitan.
It's not uncommon for Yosemite National Park to support more than a dozen fires at the same time. These fires are often closely monitored, but allowed to burn until they present a risk to people or property.
Members of the H-551 Heli-Tac crew watch for potential new fires during a flight over the park.
Fire serves an important role in the park, rejuvenating forests by removing dead material and helping plants that require fire to seed reproduce.
Training the Next Generationhttp://www.northland.edu/assets/js/outcomes/TinySlideshow/photos/fire-8.jpg
Kelly Martin speaks to a class of young firefighters about fire management and ecology during a field trip to Yosemite National Park.
Tourists in Yosemite Valley watch rock climbers on the Nose of El Cap.
Yosemite National Parkhttp://www.northland.edu/assets/js/outcomes/TinySlideshow/photos/fire-10.jpg
A view of Yosemite Valley from the road into the park.