Jacqueline C. Hawley has worked as the fire management officer for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Western Nevada Agency for six years. A Gros Ventre Indian from Montana, she founded the Morning Star Hotshot fire crew based in Carson City. She left the agency on Aug. 13 for a job in Boise, Idaho. Deputy of fire operations will be her new title with the Bureau of Indian Affairs National Fire Office in Boise.
You started the Morning Star Hotshot Crew. What was your motivation?
The motivation behind the crew came in seeing the firefighters out here. I have seen and worked hand in hand with the emergency firefighters all over, working a feast-or-famine job. The administratively determined firefighters (emergency hires) all over the country have hardships within every individual organization. The downfalls of being and working AD are working for straight pay: no overtime, benefits or hazard pay. ADs are not government employees; therefore, they basically have no rights as regular employees, only working when called, making it hard to pay daily costs of living expenses.
Being out in the field allowed me to hear and see all of the ideas and thoughts that go through firefighters' minds. Starting out as a firefighter, I understand the need for security that comes along with being permanent. As I heard these ideas, I started researching different avenues to create more stable employment here. I feel there are a lot of good-hearted hard workers out here. As time went on, the idea of an IHC crew came about.
Nevertheless, the load started to get overbearing, and resigning sounded better as the days went on. That was short-lived after hearing the comment that as a woman, I could "never get something this size off the ground." Hearing this comment gave me the motivation to keep striving toward the real goal in my heart: to help my people.
As a fire management officer, you hold a position more often held by men. What's that like?
Being a female in a predominately male-dominated field is not easy. However, being a fire management officer and having to take the supervisory role is harder. Standing up in front of one to 120 men and laying down the law is not easy; nevertheless, that comes with the job. My motto is: If you can do the job and do it well, no one should care about the person's gender or race.
I want to thank my previous supervisor, Charles O'Rourke, who supported me 100 percent in getting the Morning Star Hotshots going. As a supervisor, he knew fire. His knowledge benefited the fire management organization as a whole.
Being from Montana originally, working for years in Nevada and now heading to Idaho, you know the West well. What would you say are the major issues facing Western wildlands?
The issues facing the Western states in regard to wildlands would be the fuel loading, the urban interface and a lack of resources to get people on the ground.
By saying lack of resources, I mean the number of Indian firefighters are going down in record numbers. Valuable fire people are retiring in high numbers, leaving behind large gaps in experience and knowledge.
The population is growing fast out into the urban interface. Wildland firefighters are being faced with more and more structure fires in the urban interface. Yet we are not cross-trained in structural fire-fighting techniques as we are wildland.
Closing thought: I got the job!