My name is Bret Waszkiewicz and I began working for the United States Forest Service as a wildland firefighter in 2012. Over the past 4 years working for the Forest Service I have learned, through firsthand experience, the importance of setting a goal and taking steps, every day, to achieve the desired objective.
Growing up I always loved being outside, whether it was playing sports, hiking, cycling, camping and, most of all, dirt bike riding with my dad. We would work on and maintain the dirt bikes during the week so that we could enjoy riding and racing on the weekends. This weekly routine taught me the values of maintenance, preparation, caring for my equipment, and using my ingenuity and initiative to solve problems.
In the spring of 2015 I graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a Bachelor’s of Science in Forestry with a concentration in Fire and Fuels Management. The curriculum, which focused on the sustainability of our nation’s forests, from the viewpoint of a wildland firefighter, incorporated all of the things I had grown up to love and respect.
During my second year at Cal Poly I was given the opportunity to work for Crew 7, a type 2 wildland fire hand crew. In my time on Crew 7 I learned the fundamentals of wildland firefighting. My primary role was as a member of a saw team, both sawyer and puller. I applied my habits and knowledge to maintaining chainsaws and other fire suppression tools, constructing fire line, performing hose lays, and operating portable pumps.
Once I had completed my first fire season I decided that having my EMT Certification was the best course of action in broadening my education and advancing down my chosen career path. In the winter of 2013 I enrolled in the EMT course offered by Cuesta Community College in San Luis Obispo, CA.
In 2013, the following fire season, I was given the opportunity to join the Arroyo Grande Flight Crew, a wildland firefighting crew on Helicopter 527. I made the decision to work half the year in order to earn necessary job experience during the summer fire seasons while simultaneously financing the cost of attending Cal Poly the remainder of the year. While working for the Arroyo Grande Flight Crew I learned a great deal in a short amount of time regarding the various aspects of wildland firefighting.
Although I have a lot to learn and a long way to go, my journey so far has given me the chance to see the overwhelming strength of the firefighting community. When faced with adversity, the men and woman I have worked alongside have banded together to accomplish a goal, choosing the difficult right over the easy wrong. Following this example, I have the desire to use my ability to support the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. The hope, in completing this endeavor, is to bring awareness to all the brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice while fighting fire.
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