What can life after wildland firefighting look like? With the issues facing wildland firefighters these days (including but not limited to: abysmal pay, nonexistent benefits and perpetually being let down by elected officials who suggest they might actually do something about it etc) many in this essential but overworked workforce are likely considering that question themselves.
After asking himself that question for years, today’s guest Luke Mayfield finally got his answer in 2019, when he left his job as a hotshot captain to see what life outside of operational fire was all about. He now works as the fire program director at Mystery Ranch Backpacks, and is still very much involved the fire community—both through his policy work at Grassroots Wildland Firefighters and as an emergency fill-in for hotshot crews for the last four summers. He’s also spent some time this spring talking to hotshot crews about mental health and general wellness during the fire season, which are topics that he’s well-versed in after 18 years in fire.
This episode isn’t just for the firefighters out there, though. It’s increasingly important that folks outside of the fire community better understand the challenges firefighters are facing, and take advantage of advocacy opportunities at the state and federal level. Much of those opportunities for advocacy, in fact, are rooted in Luke’s work with Grassroots Wildland Firefighters.
Luke was a founding member of Grassroots back in 2019 after recognizing a need for more lobbying power/legislative presence on the part of the wildland fire community, which had historically been left out of the conversation at the policy level and, thus, often in the media and greater public consciousness. If you’re looking for a way to support the wildland firefighters in your life or community, supporting the work of Grassroots is a great place to start.
Huge thanks to Luke for coming on the show, and an equally huge thanks to Mystery Ranch Backpacks for supporting Life with Fire over the years. We have a fancy new affiliate link program with MR and thought we’d highlight their man purse (aka Murse), which is like the Bugatti of man-purses.
TW: Mental health challenges and suicidal ideation are discussed briefly in this episode.