This team is on fire

Meet Delta 2, the AmeriCorps team that blazed their way through the year, assisting in prescribed burns throughout the Northeast. Delta 2 is a National Civilian Community Corps group comprised of 11 young adults who spent 11 long months working hard on public lands.

This hardworking team completed rigorous training and participated in 13 prescribed burns. Together they treated 2,121 acres of land and habitat throughout their mission. The crew also learned about and responded to natural disasters, spent time improving trails, created wildlife habitat, volunteered, and gained career advice and experience.

Delta 2. USFWS

Steve Hubner of the Service’s Fire Management Program, met up with Delta 2 at Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in March, nearly 10 months into their program. By now, Delta 2 had become a well-oiled machine, working seamlessly together while also progressing as individuals. Service staff and Delta 2 joined forces to assist in burns in southeastern Virginia.

“Delta 2 was one of the best AmeriCorps teams I’ve ever worked with both as a team and as individuals,” said Steve, who has been sponsoring AmeriCorps fire teams since 2006. “This is a very fine group of young adults.”

Prescribed burning has a multitude of benefits to wildlife habitats and ecosystems. At Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and James River National Wildlife Refuge, Delta 2 assisted in burns that rejuvenated the ground and soil for warm season grasses. Just weeks later, fresh grasses provided new habitat that will benefit birds, mammals and insects for seasons to come. Even bald eagles will benefit from the new habitat!

On state lands in Virginia, with both Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Delta 2 participated in four different burns that restored a historic fire-dependent ecosystem for game and wildlife habitat. The burns also help reduce invasive species that out-compete native plants. After an area burns, native plants are quick to sprout up through the newly enriched soil and sustain new life.

Prescribed burns also benefit endangered species. Delta 2 managed habitat for red-cockaded woodpeckers at Piney Grove Preserve in Virginia. The Nature Conservancy preserves this longleaf pine habitat because it is home to one of the last breeding populations of red-cockaded woodpeckers in the area. The woodpeckers roost in mature pine trees where the wood is soft enough to excavate for their nest cavities. For foraging, the red-cockaded woodpeckers rely on savanna habitat which is made up mostly of grasslands. At Piney Grove, the crews work to maintain this pine-savanna habitat with fire, and Delta 2 was eager to help.

“It’s our hope that crews like Delta 2 will enjoy learning about prescribed fire and conservation, and possibly explore a career in this field,” Hubner explained. “We make sure to spend time talking about career possibilities and gaining new experiences.”

Lela. USFWS

One team member took a job working on a wildland fire engine in Willamette National Forest in Oregon after her time with Delta 2. Lela Waite learned what it was like to be on a fire crew while also responding to disasters. Her time with Delta 2 was beneficial because she learned to work as a team to accomplish difficult conservation objectives.

AmeriCorps NCCC was great because my whole team started at the same place with fire and we were able to learn a lot together. Sponsors like Steve Hubner offered a great environment for learning, and the cohesiveness and awesome camaraderie of my team made for a reliably comfortable atmosphere for questions, mistakes, and success. This was enough for me to confidently seek out a fire job, and I think the same is true for my several other team members either getting ready to go out this season as well, or planning on taking part in the coming years.” Waite said.

The Delta 2 team also had some great interaction with the public while they were not working on a fire by getting to connect with community members and share their conservation messages.

“One small but meaningful event that I witnessed occurred when we were eating dinner after a long day of burning at Occoquan NWR.” Steve explained. “A young girl from a nearby table finally got the courage to come over and ask a few of the female Corps members who they were. We were still in nomex and fire boots, and I’m sure we smelled like smoke! Hopefully, she will submit a NCCC application in a few years.”

Delta 2 on their final burn together. USFWS

If your interested in joining an AmeriCorps team that works to help communities, families, and wildlife like the Delta 2 fire team, be sure to check out this site and find a service you’re passionate about!

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