Craig Glazier (Forest Fire Manager)

Forest Fire Manager U.S. Forest Service Idaho Panhandle National Forests  

As long as climate change continues to cause the earth to warm up and dry out, fire suppression careers will be plentiful. That’s what U.S. Forest Service (U.S. F.S.) fire specialist Craig Glazier believes. Having worked for both Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) and the U.S.F.S since 1983, Craig has seen annual fire seasons continue to last longer and eat up increasing amounts of the budgets. 

“[The season] has extended 70-plus days in the last five to ten years,” he says. “If that continues along with the insect infestations and diseases, we’re probably going to see a lot more intense fires . . . and people moving out into the wild land interface—that complicates our job because we aren’t equipped to do structure protection.”

Craig says young people specifically interested in wildland fire fighting would be wise to earn a degree in fire science. Along with education, a solid work ethic and consistent physical conditioning are a must for anyone involved in fire suppression. “It’s a lot of hard, physical work. There’s an inter-agency standard to get on any fire crew,” he explains, ” the ” pack test” where you have to be able to carry a 45-pound pack for three miles in 45 minutes.”

Continued daily conditioning programs are also common for firefighters as they prepare for grueling 14-15 hour days of back-breaking, dirty, often tedious work. Though difficult, and at times physically and mentally draining, fire suppression does have its perks: traveling and eating. “The food’s good in most cases,” he adds. “Caterers come in. You get two hot meals a day and a sack lunch.” Craig, a northern Idaho native, cattle rancher and tree farmer from Laclede, has run the gamut of fire fighting, from pounding pulaskis on the lines to using software in the office for strategic planning.

His first experience was digging hand line at a lightning-caused one-acre fire at Priest Lake in 1983. He has since worked on hundreds of fires where thousands of acres of timber have burned, but most devastating among his career experiences was a smaller blaze that burned a home. “In my mind, that’s a lot more destructive,” he says. “We also end up on a fair amount of fires in Eastern Montana. It’s just grass to us, but to the ranchers, it’s a big deal because it’s their livelihood.”

After graduating from the University of Idaho with a forest management degree, Craig worked most of his career for the Idaho Department of Lands before accepting a position with the Forest Service in 2005 as Deputy Forest Fire Management Officer (FMO). His career started at IDL with a stint in Deary, Idaho, as assistant fire warden. In 1995, he moved back to Priest Lake as a lands and leasing specialist. He has also worked in both Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint as fire warden and program manager for IDL Fire Bureau operations and safety, respectively.

Over the years, Craig, who’s married and the father of one son, says his biggest satisfaction is derived from working with young people on the crews. “I always enjoyed that,” he says. “I don’t get to do it much anymore. I’ve kinda become a desk jockey, which I like to a degree because I like being part of the bigger picture.” Besides the challenges of each fire season, his current responsibilities involve managing the fuels program, cleaning up hazardous fuels from timber sales, budgeting, dealing with planning issues and “101 administration tasks.”

What keeps fire fighters coming back season after season? Veteran Craig Glazier says it’s the adrenalin and camaraderie. “When I started college, I thought I would become a forester until I started participating in prescribed fire programs. From that time on, I was hooked on the dynamic environment that fire creates,” he explains. “Again, I think anyone who stays with it finds it exciting, but by the end of the summer, the thrill is gone. [They’re thinking] ‘When is it going to end?'”

Want to know more?

º Interagency focal point for coordinating mobilization of resources for wildland fire

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º Finding wildland firefighting employment Online

º IDL Fire Management Bureau

º U.S. Forest Service jobs

º U.S. Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management