Fighting Fires from the Arctic Circle to the Everglades
Donated photo. Haywood Community College 1990 Fish and Wildlife Management graduate Chad Fisher was named the Chief of Wildland Fire for the National Park Service earlier this year. In this position, Fisher leads the team responsible for operations, science and ecology, and planning and budget for the service’s wildland fire management program.
Haywood Community College 1990 Fish and Wildlife Management graduate Chad Fisher has spent a career fighting fires from near the Arctic Circle to the Everglades of South Florida and a lot of country in between. After many years of experience, Fisher was named the Chief of Wildland Fire for the National Park Service in March of 2021. In this position, Fisher leads the team responsible for operations, science and ecology, and planning and budget for the service’s wildland fire management program.
“Early in my career, my favorite parts of the work were the people I worked with and the sense of camaraderie we had from the shared effort of hard work,” Fisher explains. “Today, the best part of the job is knowing I can have an impact on the generation of fire managers just behind me and the generation behind them who are getting started in their career. It’s exciting to think I can share a vision of how the National Park Service wildland fire program can be successful for the next decade.”
Fisher came to HCC after graduating from Rosman High School. During his last quarter of school at the college, Fisher took a field trip to multiple locations across the state, and it was during a connection made on this trip that he landed his first job in the field. “At Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, we met with the fire management officer who told us they were interested in hiring firefighters for Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. I started a job there within weeks of graduating.”
After working in the field for a while, Fisher returned to the classroom at the University of Montana, where he received a Bachelor’s degree in resource conservation. “Due to the strenuous academic component of my education at HCC, I was well prepared when I decided to pursue my Bachelor’s degree,” he says. “I really liked the hands-on learning environment at HCC and the challenge set forth by our instructors. These instructors set a high standard and expected us to meet them, yet they were there to help us as well. I do believe it set me up to move into the career field with a foundation of understanding of what would be expected in the workplace.”
Throughout his career, Fisher has held several field positions, including being a Hot Shot, smokejumper, helitack crew leader, and Wildland Fire Module leader. In these positions, he jumped, hiked and flew into fires as part of a highly-skilled crew. These jobs require high qualifications with extremely effective results through a variety of fire operations. He was a training specialist and wildland fire safety program manager for the National Park Service and national fire training specialist for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Prior to his most recent promotion, Fisher served as the National Park Service’s wildland fire operations program leader since 2017.
Fisher lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife and two sons.
For more information about job opportunities in this field, please visit Wildland Fire: Types of Jobs (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov). For more information about HCC’s Fish and Wildlife Management Program, please visit haywood.edu or call 828-627-4500.
Haywood Community College (HCC) is part of the North Carolina Community College System and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Founded in 1965, it is an open-door institution with the mission to serve the educational needs and economic growth of our community by promoting lifelong student learning and success. This includes programs for Haywood County high school students through Career and College Promise and Haywood Early College. The college campus, a designated arboretum, boasts one of the most beautiful college campuses in the state with an iconic mill pond, a productive greenhouse, dahlia gardens, an orchard garden and a rhododendron garden.