Sunday, September 29, 2013

National Public Lands Day 2013: Valley Forge NHP


Working to remove a sheet of plastic 
On September 28, 2013,ProRanger Philadelphia participated in National Public Lands Day at Valley Forge National Historical Park. ProRangers Jordan Keiffer, Tia Solomon, Renee Benson. and Jay Copper attended the event, which gathered volunteers from around the area and put them to work in the park. After arriving at the park, the ProRangers and approximately 15 other volunteers were assigned to the Catfish Island clean-up crew. Catfish Island is a small island located on the Schuylkill River, which is only accessible via boat. After receiving a morning briefing from group leader Ranger Bungard, we headed out to the boat launch, and began to shuttle volunteers to the island.
ProRanger Copper and a volunteer working to remove a metal drum.

Upon arrival at Catfish Island, we assisted in cleaning up the debris and garbage that finds its way onto the small strip of land. Over the course of two hours, we were able to find everything from fishing poles to car tires. Many of these items were buried beneath years of soil deposits, and some items were even tangled in tree roots. With the help of the volunteers (and some critical thinking), the majority of the buried garbage was able to be removed. Although we had limited resources, we were able to use the ideas of other group members and the items found on the island, to extricate the garbage. All of the garbage that was found on the island was deposited into bags, which will be picked up by park employees in the coming days. For larger items, we created multiple piles that will also be removed.
ProRanger Benson collecting tires!

At the conclusion of the day, we all gathered around the island's access point and assisted as volunteers were shuttled back to the parking area. Once all of the volunteers were accounted for, we began to pack up for the day. Under the instruction of Ranger Bungard, we were able to help in bringing the boat out of the water, and reloading it onto the parks boat trailer. This was a great experience, as only one of the ProRangers had previously been involved in boat operations.

National Public Lands Day is an awesome event that allows park visitors to get involved in the maintenance of the park, and volunteer for the day. It is amazing how much work can be accomplished when several groups work together. Thank you to Valley Forge National Historical Park, and all of the Rangers and volunteers that made National Public Lands Day a success!

One more bag!
You never know what you'll find!

ProRanger Solomon greeting volunteers!

At home on the water!

Thank you for reading!

Jay Copper

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Visit #4: Antietam National Battlefield (7/25)

After leaving our home in Philadelphia bright and early on Sunday morning, we had already traveled over 800 miles and visited three parks.  On Thursday afternoon, Finn and I left Harpers Ferry National Historical Park for the 18-mile drive to our final park:  Antietam National Battlefield!

We met ProRanger Jess Cooper and Ranger Tom Jones outside the Visitor's Center.  Then, Jess started our tour of the park with the most important things:  getting a copy of the junior ranger book and getting our passport stamped!

ProRanger Jess helps Finn with his junior ranger activities.
We began a driving tour of the park.  It is obvious that Jess had been studying her Civil War history this summer as she took us around the park and pointed out various major landmarks of the battle.  Jess confessed to being partial to historical parks and her hope that she gets to work in one in the future!  She shared with us many of the great events and activities that she had been a part of that summer.  I was impressed by the spirit of the park and its staff -- it seemed as if they all worked together very closely, regardless of their formal title or division, to make sure that things got done.

Jess took us to one of her favorite spots at the park - Burnside Bridge and the Witness Tree.  It was easy to see why she liked that area -- it was serene and peaceful.  In fact, the entire park is serene and full of rolling hills and beautiful vistas -- it is easy to forget that it is not just a park, but was a battlefield.

ProRanger Jess Cooper displays the Temple flag on the Burnside Bridge.
The Witness Tree
Jess Cooper and Vicki McGarvey
The junior ranger book had many "find and circle" activities - Finn has found one!

More finds for the junior ranger book.

Jess Cooper with one of Antietam's many cannons!
 We returned to the Visitor's Center to complete the junior ranger book and then Jess administered the fourth oath of the trip and the second of the day to Finn.  He was beyond proud and excited to receive his fourth junior ranger badge!

ProRanger Jess helps Finn complete his final activities.

2nd oath of the day!

Badge #4!

Four badges!
From the Visitor's Center, we headed back to the ranger station to meet with Ranger Tom Jones.  We pulled up in front of a typical suburban ranch-style house and entered through the breezeway door into Ranger Jones' office.  The NPS is certainly very resourceful and innovative when it comes to making what they have work!

ProRanger Jess Cooper and Ranger Thomas Jones
Jess Cooper and Vicki McGarvey

This trip was my first time meeting Ranger Jones.  I enjoyed hearing about his history of working with various ProRangers over the past summers.  Thanks to ProRanger Jessica Cooper and Ranger Thomas Jones and the rangers and staff at Antietam National Battlefield.  We will definitely plan for a longer stay next time!

After meeting with Ranger Jones, we were exhausted and ready to hit the road for the 180 mile trip home!  We passed two National Parks on our way home (Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site and Valley Forge National Historical Park) and I am proud to say that Finn can spot a brown sign and the NPS arrowhead from a mile away!  He is on a mission to keep earning junior ranger badges - he received a fifth badge during a trip to Mt. Ranier in August and now proudly displays them on an official junior ranger vest.  Finn is an official NPS groupie!

The trip was both a professional and personal success.  I enjoyed seeing each of our Temple students working in the parks and proudly wearing their NPS uniforms and ProRanger gear.  It was a pleasure to meet and interact with so many wonderful NPS staff and volunteers - their pride and their enthusiasm for their parks is contagious. Again, I am very privileged to be a part of this program.

Up next:  visits to INDE and VAFO (without Finn - don't tell him!)

Vicki McGarvey

Monday, September 16, 2013

Harpers Ferry NHP Entry No. 5: Conclusion

The summer has ended, along with my second internship at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. It has been a while since my last blog entry so I have much to catch everyone up on. But first I want to congratulate all of the ProRangers who have successfully graduated from SLETP at the Ambler campus of Temple University. Job well done!

My supervisor at Harpers Ferry was very diligent with trying to get me as much training as possible before the summer was over. Luckily enough, he was able to sign me up for the ASI ATV Rider Course. My supervisor and I attended the day long training at Ferry Hill, a part of the C&O Canal. The training was ran by one of the Canal's LE rangers who is a licensed ATV instructor.  We first went over the safety procedures before riding the ATVs, like the pre-ride inspection and the correct way to operate the different types of ATVs. Then my supervisor and I participated in the driving course that was set up for us. After getting used to switching gears smoothly, I had a lot of fun and felt comfortable maneuvering the ATV around the course at different speeds. We both successfully completed the course and became certified to drive ATVs at work for the NPS.

Before the summer came to an end, I also completed a maintenance project up on the Maryland Heights Trail of HAFE. Many of the waysides needed replacement signs due to weathering or vandalism. We hiked up the mountain carrying seven large signs and replaced each one while reinstalling the rivets that secured them. It was pretty hard work, especially since I picked one of the hottest days of the summer to complete the task. But it was a very important job. Many people hike up this trail each day and without visible educational waysides, the historical significance of the mountain would be overlooked.

Salmon River Complex Wildland Fire

Over the summer I had completed all of my online wildland fire training, including NWCG's S-190 Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior and S-130 Firefighter Training. I also successfully passed the field training and the pack test which is a 3 mile walk in under 45 minutes carrying a 45 lb pack. I became a certified wildland firefighter and quickly put myself in the system as available to go out on the next fire crew for the NCR. The whole summer went by with no call, until the last day before my availability would be cut off due to the school semester. I got the call from my supervisor, telling me we were going to Northern California and had one day to pack before we began our travel at 0600 the next morning. That Monday morning we met with the rest of our Type-II IA crew and travelled down to Knoxville, TN where we would fly out the next day. We flew into the Redding Air Attack Base located at the CAL FIRE Northern Operations Center in Redding, CA. After flying into Redding, we found out which fire, out of many, that our crew was going to be stationed at. It was the Salmon River Complex located in Klamath National Forest, about 40 miles from the Oregon border. After about another 3 hour drive or so, we finally arrived at base camp. At arrival, fire was very large, comprised of over 1000 people. Also at arrival, the fire was at about 7800 acres in size and only 16% contained. There were 40 engines, 7 helicopters, 6 dozers, and 14 tenders being utilized. Around 50 structures were threatened. A Red Flag Warning was established for most of the week due to changing winds and thunderstorms. The terrain was noted to be very steep and difficult.

The first few days we started work, we were stationed at Division Bravo. The dozer line had already been started, but we needed to continue and clear out a hand line across the mountain ridge, which was about 6000 feet in elevation. I took turns switching tools with my squad members so I could get comfortable using each one. I enjoyed using the McLeod most of all in this specific type of rocky terrain. I also helped out as a swamper on Bravo when we began to manually widen the dozer line. I assisted my squad's Class B sawyer by moving out the heavy debris he had just recently cut down with his chainsaw and moving it over to the green.

After working up in Bravo, we had to create a cup trench along a part of one of the main roads that travels throughout KNF. The purpose of the trench was to keep hot debris from crossing the road when rolling down the mountain which was located in the black. We had to cover a 5 mile long area. During this time, I became familiar with poison oak. I also had become familiar with how dehydration feels, a consequence from the days before and not drinking the appropriate amount of water. I learned to never do that again.

The next days were spent in Division Sierra. First we traversed through a decent sized creek, removing snags and foliage that crossed over to the other side. Then we hiked a few miles up the fire line to where the Lassen NF crew was about to perform a back burn. My crew held the line by watching the green, making sure nothing crossed over. During the middle of the back burn, the LNF crew allowed my squad boss (who was also my HAFE supervisor) and I use the drip torches for a while. We walked about 3 chains in from the fire line and lit up the brush along the way, in lines that were spaced about 10 feet apart. We continued this pattern all the way down the fire line until we had finished the back burn area. This was an amazing opportunity and experience for me to practice with the dip torch on my first fire. It was also a ton of fun and I will never forget the adrenaline rush I got that day. I want to thank the Lassen crew again for allowing me to assist them with the burn. After the back burn, the following days were spent mopping up. To me, mop-up is one of the most fun for jobs out on a fire because you can get extremely dirty. A complete mop-up of this area took a few days. There were many large hot spots. We had a few engines going, so the hose lay that ran along the fire line was utilized for these spots.

We were sent to Division Echo for one day to finish with mop up. Again, we worked with an engine crew that fed us water up and down the mountain. There were not as many hot areas in this division. It cooled over pretty well. But it is where I saw my first rattle snake which was very exciting! It ran away from me when I tried to get close enough, so I could not get a better picture than this one on the side.

Division Tango was the last division we were stationed at during the fire. We spent about half of the last week there. We saved the best for last as the walk up the fire line went straight uphill, about 3000 feet in elevation in about 2 hours. The nickname for the fire line was the "Trail of Tears" throughout the different crews. Footing was a major safety issue here. The mission for Tango was again mop-up. But the terrain here was too steep for any engines to get near. Therefore the hose lay along the fire line was fed by air drops from the helicopter. Hiking up to the midway point of the fire line was a treat because here we were able to watch the helicopter drop its water loads into the tank. A Mark-3 pump fed the water up and down the hose lay for us to use. During our mop-up operation, our sawyers had their work cut out for them with snags that had to be fallen. I occasionally spotted for the sawyers when they needed my help.

 The snag of all snags.

The last two days at Tango were hard work. The fire had spread to the the edge of Jack-ass Creek rather quickly and without warning. My crew and the other Virginia crew were the only ones left to create a direct attack against the fire before it crossed the other side of Jack-ass and into the green.  We ran through the fire carrying the hose lay and quickly connected them together before it opened up to the engine. We extinguished all the flames and the hot spots, including one extremely massive snag. After a very successful direct attack, the next day we picked up almost 6000 feet of installed hose lay and brought them back to the road to get taken back to camp. 

It was a very sad day when we left the Klamath. I grew attached to the woods and attached to my crew. When we left, the fire was around 14,000 acres in size and about 85% contained. There were around 550 people, 32 engines, 1 dozer, 18 tenders, and 6 helicopters left.  For a first fire, a firefighter could not ask for more. Our crew did it all. Hose lay, hand line, mop-up, falling, swamping, direct attack, back burn, and assisted with helicopter drops. It was the best two weeks of my life and I cannot wait to do it again. I have become addicted to wildland firefighting.

The fire ended my summer internship. This summer was extremely educational and motivational. Over the course of my time at HAFE, I think I built a great foundation to a career in law enforcement. I owe it all to my supervisor who really got me involved with LE experiences. Before this summer, I had very little. Now I am more than comfortable with saying that I want and will be US Park Ranger one day very soon. Thank you to everyone at Harpers Ferry NHP that worked with me this summer.

Currently I am back at school. I am going to the Ambler campus for a Bachelors in Horticulture. I have just begun an EMT course at the local community college near my house in South Jersey. This 9 month course. My goal is to successfully complete the course and the NREMT to be nationally registered as an Emergency Medical Technician.
I have also just recently assisted Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine with their Defender's Day celebration this past weekend. I had a blast working with my fellow ProRangers directing traffic and checking bags at the access point. I want to thank FOMC for allowing us to be a part of such prestigious event and giving us even more invaluable experiences.

Conclusion: Reflections on Gettysburg

Conclusion of Internship: Gettysburg

My time at Gettysburg has drawn to a close, and after all is said and done, I can honestly say that my internship with the National Park Service has been an amazing experience. During the course of my time here, I have had the opportunity to work with incredible people, explore fascinating things, and learn a great deal about the National Park Service and myself.

I had the opportunity to enjoy several dream experiences while at Gettysburg National Battlefield Park. I lived on the battlefield in a beautiful, historic farmhouse where Pickett's Charge took place. I held historic relics from the battle that few people ever get to see. I also had the opportunity to educate visitors about the Battle of Gettysburg and its significance in history. This culminated in a chance to work with Interpretive Ranger Matt Atkinson during his televised tour of General Kershaw's South Carolina brigade. The tour was televised on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) and I was recorded on camera throughout the tour. This was a dream come true for me because I grew up watching the National Park Service tours of Gettysburg on PCN. Furthermore, I provided a variety of services to Ranger Atkinson on the tour, such as helping to answer tourists' questions, directing vehicle traffic around the group, and guiding people from one stop to another. A memorable moment for me was when I gave a battle flag that Ranger Atkinson brought along to a young girl to carry on the tour. She was so excited to be carrying it, that she smiled for the entire tour. Even by the tour's end, she did not want to give up that flag! The young girl reminded me of myself as a child and it made me feel good to know that I left her with a positive memory of Gettysburg.

Finally, I came away with many valuable lessons on what it means to be a great Law Enforcement Ranger. Great rangers know their job and their park; furthermore, they know their fellow rangers within the park and respect them. Whether it was a maintenance worker mowing grass or a biologist studying rivers, the Law Enforcement Rangers always showed appreciation for what they did within the park. In addition to this, I learned the value of integrity and why it is important to be honest and true in all that you do within a park. Say what you mean and mean what you say, and always carry out your tasks to the best of your ability. Good Law Enforcement Rangers keep their commitments and always put others welfare before their own. I hope that in my future career as a Law Enforcement Ranger, I can equal the great rangers that I had an opportunity of working with at Gettysburg. I will carry their memory with me long after this internship and look forward to meeting them again within the National Park Service.

Best Wishes and Many Thanks to everyone at Gettysburg National Military Park!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Summer in SLETP

This past summer spent at the Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program at Ambler has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my life.  Going into the Academy I was not entirely sure what to expect or what amazing people I was going to meet.  Throughout our weeks we spent long hours in the classroom, participated in some grueling PT, studied nonstop, and went through scenario after scenario to build our KITE.  

I was able to not only grow as an individual but was provided the opportunity to work with an amazing class of fellow recruits that I will remember for the rest of my career.  We were able to start out as complete strangers but finished as one solid team that would not have made it without each other.  Along the way we also had the privilege of meeting many top of the line instructors that did their best to prepare us and make sure we would become hard targets.

I know there is still so much to learn in the field but I feel as though I am as best prepared as I can be to start my new career.  I am so excited to begin this journey at my first park, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and can only imagine the many new experiences I am going to have.  I would like to thank every person who has helped me get to the point where I am today; the guidance I have received the past three years has made all the difference! 

Best of luck to all of my fellow ProRangers!

ProRanger Erin Langeheine

The Star-Spangled Banner Defenders’ Day Weekend

199th Anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore

ProRangers Jennifer Pflugfelder, Mark Clarke, Renee Benson, & Jay Copper

ProRangers Mark Clarke, Jay Copper, Jennifer Pflugfelder and I assisted the Fort McHenry staff with the annual Defenders’ Day Event.  Defenders’ Day is a special day in U.S. history because it is the day that American troops defended against British invasion and inspired Francis Scott Key to compose the “Star Spangled Banner” which has since become our national anthem.  We were excited and grateful to be able to work this event.

On Friday our duties consisted of helping to direct the parking of over thirty buses full of eager school children.  We were happy to show the drivers where to park and guide the children to the “check in” point.  Friday was also the day of the 2013 U.S. Mint of America quarter launch which featured Fort McHenry.  Overall, the day progressed very smoothly because everyone from the different divisions communicated effectively and there was a functional incident command system in place.  Mark and Jennifer had the opportunity to assist FOMC staff with the parade that I felt was the highlight of the evening.

Saturday we assisted with additional parking because large numbers of visitors were arriving at the park.  It is imperative that we assist with parking to ensure the safety of park visitors.  After the parking detail, we assisted law enforcement park rangers with access points that were set up throughout the park for pedestrian and vehicle access.  At each point there were K-9 units patrolling and we were able to observe the K-9s in action.  Jay Copper was squad leader and patrolled the rope line to make sure that only authorized personnel entered the fort.  Ending the night was an awe-inspiring fireworks display that lit up the night sky.

It was awesome to be able to work the event for the second time.  This year, I felt that planning improved and a successful event was executed.  Working this event also reassured me that I know I want to pursue my career working as a National Park Service law enforcement ranger.  I was able to utilize the skills that I learned in the academy and I cannot wait to start learning more through experience.  Thank you to everyone at Fort McHenry!

ProRangers Jennifer Pflugfelder & Renee Benson