- Associated Press - Monday, May 19, 2014

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. (AP) - When Tim Gibilisco left the Army and his job as a sniper 12 years ago, the transition to civilian life didn’t go smoothly - until he strapped on a 45-pound backpack, carried it 3 miles in less than 45 minutes and passed the test to become a federal wildfire fighter.

Gibilisco is now a squad leader of a Bureau of Land Management fire crew based in Klamath Falls that was created in 2012 as part of a program funded by the Obama administration to put veterans back to work, the Klamath Falls Herald and News reports (http://bit.ly/1nePfDU ).

“With an infantry skill set, there aren’t a lot of civilian jobs available,” Gibilisco said.

“Fire kind of bridged that gap,” he said. “There’s a mission. There’s a plan. There’s a sequence. There’s some importance to what you are doing. You’re not just arbitrarily wandering around through life.”

Nine of the 10 firefighters at the Klamath Falls office are military veterans, said crew supervisor Mike McGirr. As the fire season picks up, he predicts the crew will swell to 25, with as many as 18 members being former military.

Most of the firefighters live in the Basin year round, and the program accepts veterans from all over the United States, McGirr said.

McGirr said former explosive technicians have developed a new protocol for fuel removal, and several crew members with combat medical training have improved the agency’s medical protocols.

Physical fitness is critical for the “hand crew” firefighters dispatched to suppress fire in remote locations nationwide, he said.

Gibilisco said the physical nature of firefighting is an aspect of the job that appeals to him, and he believes it’s one of the forces that pulls the group together.

“It’s very similar to military life,” he said. “It’s just a different job, is all.”

___

Information from: Herald and News, http://www.heraldandnews.com