Wildland Firefighters Monument
The Wildland Firefighters Monument, located just south of the Jack F. Wilson building, is in some ways a stark contrast to the often-hectic pace at the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), particularly during a busy fire year. It is a quiet location, almost serene, thriving with vegetation native to the Great Basin. The shrubs, grasses and trees represent the three kinds of vegetation zones in the Great Basin – rangelands, mountains and riparian. The monument’s centerpiece is a waterfall, underscoring the importance of water to life in the West and its value to wildland firefighters.
The monument features three, eight-foot-tall bronze statues of firefighters, created by the late Lawrence Nowlan through an artist-in-residence program sponsored by the National Park Service. The figures represent distinct responsibilities and characteristics of firefighters and pay tribute to all those who work on the fireline. The walkway through the monument is shaped like a ribbon, symbolizing the purple ribbon worn by firefighters to honor those who have fallen in the line of duty. More than 325 plaques in the monument offer tribute to those the wildland fire community has lost.
The Wildland Firefighters Monument was conceived as a result of tragedy when 14 firefighters died during the 1994 South Canyon Fire in western Colorado. Construction started in the late 1990s and the monument was formally dedicated in May 2000. The work was completed by volunteers and generous donations from individuals and businesses. It is maintained by NIFC employees, local volunteers and visitors, under the guidance of the Bureau of Land Management.
The monument is visited throughout the year by firefighters, colleagues and family members of those whose roots in wildland fire management run deep. Most poignant are visitors whose lives have been touched by the loss of firefighters. The very nature of the monument provides a place for visitors to witness on a small scale the experiences and diverse elements of wildland firefighting. The monument serves as a reminder of the challenges and risks inherent in firefighting.
In the midst of the busy NIFC campus, the monument offers peace, tranquility and a place to reflect, and reminds visitors of those who made the ultimate sacrifice while battling flames, or dedicated long careers to wildland fire management.