Vegas Valley Veterans Crew

About US

Vision: Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) veteran crews are a unique resource within wildland fire. Vegas Valley is configured as Type 2 Initial Attack (IA) crew comprised primarily of military veterans. We serve a dual mission of providing a highly skilled hand crew for all aspects of wildland fire management while recruiting, employing, and training veterans as wildland firefighters and promoting individual career development for placement throughout all disciplines within the BLM.

Mission: The mission of the Vegas Valley Veterans Handcrew is to provide a safe, professional, and highly skilled Type 2IA hand crew, comprised primarily of military veterans, for all functions within wildland fire operations while placing an emphasis on career development for advancing employment within the BLM.

Crew Duties:

  • All aspects of wildfire operations
  • Assistance in all hazard operations
  • Resource management
  • Providing cadre members for training
  • Advanced medical experience/training
  • Aviation training/operations
  • Communications training/operations
  • Vehicle operation and light maintenance
  • Heavy equipment operation (non-fire)
  • Incident leadership and management
  • Peer support and mental health development

Crew Station/Facilities:

Vegas Valley is based out of the Red Rock Fire Station, located ~3mi west of Summerlin, NV (part of the Las Vegas metropolitan area) in the Red Rock National Conservation Area. The station is shared with the Southern Nevada District's engine program and Law enforcement officers.

Barracks are currently available at a cost of $169.78 per pay period or $367.89 per month. Amenities include single occupant rooms, a common living room/dining area, kitchen, laundry room, secured, camera protected and partially shaded parking along with a well-equipped gym. The areas surrounding the fire station provide ample opportunity for outdoor recreation including hiking, rock climbing, trail running, and mountain biking. These same areas the crew makes use of for our PT runs and hikes.

The community of Summerlin has immense opportunities for dining, shopping, and entertainment. Our station is located only 21 Highway miles from Harry Reid International Airport and has quick access to State route 215 (3.5 mi.) and Interstate 15 (21 Mi.)

Training:

Vegas Valley believes in highlighting the strengths and skillsets brought forth from previous service in our nation’s military. The BLM, as well as the crew, recognize that experience and situational maturity gained during military service is of great value to the agency. The intent of our training program is to introduce the Veteran to basic wildland firefighting safety and concepts and then rapidly develop them to the Firefighter type 1 level utilizing many of their prior abilities and experiences. The goal is to develop firefighters and make them highly sought-after candidates for permanent positions, either within our crew or another BLM Fire program.

 

    Daily Operations:

    Daily operations vary greatly based on time of the year, availability status of the crew, fire suppression demands and assigned tactical missions. One of the many facets of the job that our crewmembers enjoy most is the changes in daily tasking and tactical employment.

    Recruitment and Hiring:

    Physical Fitness:

    The Vegas Valley Veterans Handcrew views physical fitness as one of the critical pillars to our program’s foundation and success. This is due to the nature of our work, our desired operational tempo, fostering a cohesive teamwork-oriented environment and most importantly safety. Everyone is expected to show up to the first day of work in peak physical condition.

    Anyone showing up less than will find our training regime extremely uncomfortable and potentially risk injury. Keep in mind the crew’s duty location is Las Vegas Nevada, it is common for us to train in the afternoon with temperatures well over 100 degrees.

    A typical fire season starts with our two-week scheduled training known as critical 80, during which the crew PT’s twice daily with an emphasis on running and hiking. Runs range from moderate effort at crew pace to all out individual pace, with the majority being on trails over rolling and uneven terrain, between 3-7 miles. All hikes will consist of a 45 lb. pack over varied terrain for up to 3 hours, usually culminating in an elevation gain of 1000 ft or more.

    Great emphasis will always be put on individual hiking fitness, as it is job specific and any firefighters “bread and butter.” Strength work will be performed daily consisting of body weight calisthenics, weightlifting, circuit work and crew skill drills. Injury prevention and rehab is taken very seriously by our program. Applicable workouts will begin with a dynamic warmup led by experienced crewmembers and end with a cooldown and group stretching. For the remainder of the fire season while in station or on the road and not assigned to an active incident the crew will train daily to maintain physical strength and overall health. Vegas Valley participates in the BLM Fitness Challenge annually.

    History

    Crew History: The Vegas Valley Veteran Hand Crew was established in 2012 and is one of the first three BLM veteran crews to be commissioned. Eric Ellison, founding Superintendent, Assistant Supt. Porter McQueary, and the BLM Southern Nevada District had a very busy spring that year recruiting, hiring, creating a logo and establishing a name. Both Ellison and McQueary were detailed into their positions that first year, Porter from the Alaska Smokejumpers, and Eric from the Silver State Hotshots. The crew spent that first year fighting mostly initial attack fires from April through October, when single digit weather ended their season while in Idaho. Those who stuck through it that first year saw a ton of fire in a short period of time and set the standard we embrace today.

    Since then, Vegas Valley has worked tirelessly all over the western states as well as Alaska to forge and hone a reputation of safe, aggressive, and tactically sound firefighting. The crew maintains it’s original intent of hiring veterans returning from combat or serving their country and giving them an avenue to begin a career in the federal fire service. The crew has employed over 100 military veterans to date and recruits from all branches of service.

    Overhead History

    Superintendent

    • 2012-2021         Eric Ellison
    • 2022-Present     JP Blair

    Assistant Superintendent

    • 2012 Porter McQueary
    • 2013 Isaiah Fischer
    • 2014 James Dibert
    • 2015 Gerald (Junior) Campbell
    • 2016-2021 Jason LaNier
    • 2022 Vacant
    • 2023 Andrew Merriam (Detailed)

    Geographic Location: N -36°08'01.1"    W 115°23'33.9"

    2925 Moenkopi Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89135

    Contact Us

    Crew Contacts:

    Superintendent: JP Blair Desk- 702-515-5218     Cell-725-261-3336

    Assistant: Currently Vacant

    Squad Leaders:

    • Andrew Merriam- Cell (702) 232-3506 Desk (702) 515-5183
    • Nick McGovern: Cell (702) 250-4561 Desk (702) 515-5213
    • Shane McCracken: Cell (725) 232-6026 Desk (702) 515-5235