Sunday, July 31, 2016

Tying Up Loose Ends

Hello my name is Nicholas Fitzke and I am the ProRanger currently stationed at San Juan National Historic Site.

Things are slowing down here at the site as I prepare to head home in a few days. My supervisor has been off for the past week because he was working the DNC detail in Philly.

Although this allowed me some time to do solo contacts, patrol with the chief and do more administrative/organizational work while he was away. 4 days of work left after today.

Also using this down time to reflect on all that I've been exposed to here in San Juan. 

This coming week I plan on doing my PEB, learning a little about criminal complaints, and packing up my things to head back to Philly.

After those 4 days my time spent as an intern will be over and academy will start. I am forever grateful to everyone who made amazing journey this possible for me. Especially the staff at SAJU who welcomed me this summer with open arms. 

I will never forget all the amazing things I've seen and done here in Puerto Rico.

This will most likely be my final blog entry as a current ProRanger intern. 

Stay frosty.


The Lowell Folk Festival

I worked at the Lowell Folk Festival this past Saturday.  The event took place at Lowell National Historical Park. It was so great to experience another national park. However, I was not there to see the sights, I was there to work. The event was expected to attract over 100,000 visitors over the course of three days so there was a lot to be done to ensure the safety of the public. The morning started of with a briefing. All of the LE rangers were in the ranger station. The rangers came in from all over to help out with this event. Most of them were from Salem, Cape Cod, and other Massachusetts parks, however one of the rangers came all the way from the Virgin islands to help out. I really enjoyed talking to the rangers and hearing all about their parks.

The morning briefing went over all of the security and safety details. There was a strict plan in place. There was so much thought and planning put into preventative measures. I found the entire briefing to be incredibly thorough. After the briefing I went out to my assigned section with my supervisor Mark. He gave me lots of helpful information and tips on how to deal with large crowds, what to look for, and how to react in various situations should they occur. It was great being in a new environment because it provided me with an entirely new set of skills.
Working at the festival was fun, I got to drive a golf cart and do foot patrols. I helped many visitors find where they needed to go. I got to observe several medical emergencies caused by both heat and overconsumption of alcohol. Like mentioned above this day really exposed me to a lot of new situations. Later in the evening when the bigger bands started playing I helped with crowd control by making sure the fans did not try to sneak behind the stager or run up onto the stage while the bands were playing.
It was a great day. There was so much to see and so much to do. I am thankful for that opportunity and glad I could help out. At the end of the day I found myself really getting even more excited to advance in the ranger world.  

Maintenance in Boston National Historical Park

I spent the last week working with maintenance. I spent time with custodial, grounds, carpentry, and the electrician. I helped out with several project. My first task was to help paint a wall that had been recently repaired in the Bunker Hill Museum. I thought I knew how to paint a wall until I worked with the crew. They taught me so many new tricks to painting a wall. I will be using what I learned with them next time I find myself painting. The next project dealt with plaster. There was a ceiling outside of a gift shop that needed work. I was only able to watch for this because it was a one man job and required a skilled hand ( not me). It was fascinating watching how the repairs were made.

The next major task was replacing a toilet in the visitor center. For this project maintenance pretty much let me run the show. They handed me a toilet and an instruction book and some tools. I was able to do a considerable amount before I had to ask for help.  It was my first time doing anything like that. It was surprisingly fun  and challenging at the same time. It took a little longer than the average time it takes to install a toilet but for my first time I was told it was not bad. I then got a tour of where all of the chemical waste is stored. I learned about how the chemicals need to be stored and how they are removed.


I got to spend a day with special features. This is a small crew of three people. Their main tasks are to work on any historical buildings, ships, and piers. I was able to help paint and inspect the USS Cassin Young. I had a lot of fun doing that.  I spent the rest of the time with the grounds crew. In the beginning I walked around the park  with the supervisor. He gave me an entirely new perspective of the park. I learned about the irrigation systems, the tree removal practices and how the lawns were maintained. This was all great to learn about, and then he handed me some gloves and told me to join the crew. I mulched, weeded, and raked up leaves. They are a smart group and managed to work in the shaded areas for all of their projects. This helped out a little bit because it was about ninety three degrees outside.
Inspecting and painting the USS Cassin Young 

Spending all of that time with maintenance really gave me a much better understanding of the park. I realized how many things I just took for granted around the park like a mowed lawn, trash free area, mulched flower beds, and everything else they do. I was great working with everyone in maintenance. I enjoyed helping out and seeing how much hard work goes into the park every day.  

Chemical waste storage 

My summer view: Cumberland Island National Seashore

My summer view: Cumberland Island National Seashore

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Today I passed the PEB, which means I can officially go to the academy in a few weeks. I am excited for this new chapter in life to begin!

As my time at SAMO slowly comes to an end, I have been feeling nostalgic. Remembering my first week, I was absolutely lost when it came to directions, highways, and if you mentioned a short cut, I would have thought you were speaking a different language.

Today was a prime example of combining what I have learned through out the summer with contacting a visitor. The individual was essentially looking for a place to camp for free. I was located at the Visitors Center with a ranger. There are no campsites available since it's the weekend and there is not a free site for miles. The individual grew hostile when I discussed how camping works in the recreation area. The ranger and I attempted to provide alternatives and suggest other possibilities. I called the county sheriff's department and finally the Mountain Recreation Conservation Authority, who actually owns the land that the visitors center is located.

After collaborating with MRCA and our own Visitor and Resource Protection Division, we were able to direct the individual off the grounds and towards other possibilities.

Visit from Temple University

Recently, Mr. Tony Luongo conducted a site visit from Temple University to the beautiful Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The timing was perfect! The Mounted Volunteer Patrol (MVP) conducted a training and we were able to observe.
A member from California State Parks also attended the training and I was able to introduce Mr. Luongo to the ranger. It was a great example of how SAMO works with a variety of different agencies on a daily basis.  

I took Mr. Luongo to as many sites as I could within two days. We saw great views and went on many hikes. It was great being able to tell Mr. Luongo about all the things I have done this summer. 
In one of the pictures, I am pointing to the area that I had previously climbed down with another ranger to pick up litter. Being able to share the experiences I have had this summer allows Mr. Luongo a full picture of this internship.  

The view of my house - SAMO

     One of the projects that I have been working on during my time here at Santa Monica Mountains involves the identifying the locations of Automated External Defibrillators (AED). There are many things a ranger needs to be aware of in all types of varying situations. For now, I'll just focus on something that myself and ProRanger Katie Yody have made into a life-long egg hunt, everywhere we go pointing out the location of various AEDs. Whether the AED is located near the front door, down a hallway, behind a secured door, and so forth, it is always important to know where the equipment is located.

     The map that I am working on will be available to rangers via the tablets inside their vehicles (if all goes well with technology, that is). Below is a screen shot of a route that shows how the AED locations are scattered. It will be a great tool for on-boarding new rangers when they start to familiarize themselves with SAMO and where the AEDs lie within.

     In the event of an emergency, the mind and body operated at a heightened level. Even if an individual passes by an AED on his or her way to the office, it could be difficult to recall that memory while the individual is experiencing the stress of an emergency.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest can be treated most effectively by a combination of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and defibrillation. In the amount of time it takes to locate and setup an AED, the rescuer begins and continues CPR. So, where on earth is the nearest AED and how long will it take someone to run and grab it?

     It's awesome to know before the incident that you need one. I encourage you all to join in the hunt! In my experience, I like to keep a mental note of where they are.

     At Paramount Ranch, for example, the AED is located in the contact station. Some of you may be thinking, "well, where is that?" EXACTLY! It is the brown building that you must pass by in order to enter Western Town. ALSO, the AED is behind a locked door! In the event of an emergency, it is important to remember this. I would not be able to say to any human, "blue shirt, retrieve the AED from the brown building!" It is unlikely that this human has a key to open the door inside the visitor contact station that allows access to the ranger offices. I would need to have a ranger retrieve the AED.

Know where AEDs are located and how to access them!

Week 9 - You Learn Something New Each Day

Week 7 was another mixed week as I was scheduled to be with interpretation but ended up lending two of my days to finish up a project I had started while with cultural resources the previous week. I say project but we were really just moving part of the collection at Jamestowne over to Yorktown. This move required three trips and when the trip is a forty minute drive one way on top of the time it takes to load and unload, the time it takes quickly adds up. But over the course of two days we were able to get everything moved and organized in its new home and even had time to travel around to various locations and check temperature and humidity data loggers, which quickly turned into a scavenger hunt as a few of them had died and we couldn't use our phone to track there location. Overall, I'm glad I was able to do this as not being able to see the project through to the end would have bothered me. 

The rest of the week I was back to my normal interpretative duties of working the information desk at both the Jamestowne and Yorktown visitor centers. I have to say by the end of the week I really had the job down and was able to tailor my short speech to the visitors' interest pretty accurately. Through the week I also got the chance to participate in two interpretive programs I hadn't gotten to do my first week with Interpretation. The first is the subject of the three pictures included in this post. We have 3 buildings within the park that we open to visitors when we have staff to station there and the one I didn't get to do last time, the Nelson House, was finally open this week. This was the house owned by Thomas Nelson, Jr. who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a brigadier general in the Continental Army who fought at the Siege of Yorktown, and a governor of Virginia. This house was one of the few that survived the siege and is estimated to be 80-90 percent original today. Oh yeah and that cannon shot you see in the side of the building isn't real, but it sure looks cool.

The second new thing I got to do was take the guided Yorktown tour. Our visitor center used to offer a variety of programs and tours but these have slowly been whittled away as staff diminishes. However, we have a few volunteers that are knowledgeable enough to be able to lead tours and programs. This Yorktown tour is a rare occurrence so I made sure tag along for this one and it was well worth the hour out in the heat. I learned things during this tour that I hadn't even heard mentioned in the eight weeks I have already spent here. This tour really was a testament to the benefit of participating in an internship that allows you the ability to work with and talk to as many people within a park as possible.

Park Visit to CUIS

Earlier this month, Mr. Luongo came to visit Cumberland Island NS. Mr. Luongo got to meet Ranger Reitchel and Ranger Lawrence, the two rangers who have been supervising me this summer. I first introduced Mr. Luongo to the Captains House, the Ranger Station. I showed him my medical bag and all the supplies I carry on a daily basis. I introduced him to the Dungeness Ruins and the historical history of the island. We then hiked Nightingale Trail to observe some of the natural resources, where we found some black widows and golden orb weavers along the trail. Then we drove north on the main road to check out the rest of the island. We did a tour of Plum orchard and The settlement. it started raining pretty hard, which made for a fun ride on dirt roads in the Chevy Colorado.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Favorite Spot

With over 700,000 acres of designated Wilderness (94% of Yosemite NP), it's hard to chose a favorite spot in the park.  However, I think mine is Tuolumne Meadows.

The View from the Ranger's Club

The view from the back porch of the Ranger's Club is one of my favorite spots from this historic home.

When Two ProRangers Reunite for a Week

     Following the 4th of July I got to take in a day with the Yosemite legal office, and we had hoped I would get to see a trial, but it had been settled the night before. This only meant we got to go out on the boat at Hetch Hetchy to see exactly where a bizarre case in the park had occurred last fall.



     The rest of the week I went on ride alongs with the Valley shift, learning more about the zones of the district, and problems within them. We discussed different tactics of patrolling during different hours of the day, and how especially on the weekends bike patrol is really the most effective way to get around the Valley. Last year was the highest visitation on record for the park; by June of this year those numbers had already increased 20%, which only exacerbates major problems in the park, such as traffic congestion.

     The next week was quickly rolling around and there were whispers of trainings going on, which I had been waiting for so fellow ProRanger Brittany Kriner could come up from SAMO and join. I don't think things could have fell into place any better than they did. The day Brittany arrived we were able to squeeze in a ride along that evening in the Valley. The following day we participated in swift water training. Since the beginning of spring this year up to the training, over 20 people had life-threatening (or life-ending) incidents in the creeks and rivers of Yosemite.  

     The following day we attended active shooter training with the LE Rangers and Medics. In the morning we watched the LE's practice different ways, and the finer tactics of clearing rooms. This all lead up to the large scenario in the afternoon in which Brittany and I played the roles of victims. Brittany's last day here we were lucky enough to go on Climbing Patrol. We did a multi pitch climb on After 6 and the view we had from the top, and all the way up was amazing.  I'm glad Britt got to come out and experience some of the things I've been doing this summer and also do some new things with me!

Autograph Your Work

“Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it. Autograph your work with excellence.”  -Jessica Guidobono-

In my final two weeks at BUFF, I am working with the maintenance division and it has been another great week. The maintenance division here at BUFF is filled with extremely hardworking individuals that truly give meaning to the phrase “do more with less.” While struggling with common agency-wide issues such as understaffing and lack of resources, the men and women of the BUFF maintenance division continually “autograph their work with excellence.”

Frank (right) and his YCC crew
after some hard work
One of the freshly painted park buildings
Frank Smith, much like Ray Benjamin, is a one-man team. He is the BUFF trail team and as such, he is charged with maintaining BUFF’s 70+ miles of trail. Luckily, this summer he was given some extra help and tasked with leading a YCC (Youth Conservation Corps) group. I was lucky enough to work with Frank and the YCC kids this week and together, in just three days, we painted two park buildings and maintained nearly five miles of the BRT (Buffalo River Trail). I was just so impressed by the work ethic and skill of the YCC group. I think I speak for the entire group when I say that we ended each workday both exhausted and filled with a sense of accomplishment.

I have truly enjoyed my time thus far with maintenance because I love being able to look back at my work each day and see a visible improvement. I also love leaving work feeling physically exhausted because I put everything into my work. That is a feeling that simply can’t be replicated. That is how I “autograph my work with excellence.”

Hog Team Update

Reporting live from Buffalo National River… this just in: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. A large group of feral hogs and a large sow were sighted in the hog trap that I helped to set up in Wilson Field with THE hog team (aka Ray Benjamin). Shortly after the sighting, the gate was triggered and Ray responded.

A group of feral hogs caught on camera gazing
in the Wilson Field hog trap
A large sow sighted later that night
 in the Wilson Field hog trap

Lightning at Cumberland

This past week I've incorporated the risk of lighting striking a visitor into my Preventative Search and Rescue Plan. Cumberland Island is a barrier island, which means hurricanes and storms frequently affect the island. When there is a storm lighting frequently strikes the island. When someone gets hit by lightning, it causes the heart rhythm to become disorganized. These disorganized heart rhythms include ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia. Both of these rhythms require a shock from an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). I took advice from my good friend and fellow ProRanger Brittany Kriner. Brittany is working on many projects at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. One of her projects includes mapping out the locations of all AED's in the park. When someone requires a shock from an AED, you will most definitely want to know where the closest is located. Disorganized heart rhythms are extremely time sensitive. I thought this project was really helpful so I decided to do the same at my park, thanks to Brittany's advice. I've incorporated the location of each AED in my Preventative Search and Rescue Program so future rangers will have this vital information readily available. Thanks Britt !!!

Program Visit: FIIS

My second program visit began with a drive from Philadelphia to Fire Island National Seashore.  Despite the fact that we were traveling mid-day on a Monday afternoon, the Long Island traffic was bad!   I was joined on this visit by Junior (Pro)Rangers Finn and Aislin.

We were able to drive onto the island and park near the lighthouse and ranger station.  But, beyond the state park on the very western tip of the island, no cars are allowed without a special permit (during the winter months) and not at all during the summer.  There are no roads on the island – only boardwalks that connect some communities and sand.  Visitors either park and walk to their destination or arrive at one of several ferry points and transport their supplies via carts.  

After meeting ProRanger Justen Williams for a tour of the ranger station and visitor center, we set off for Watch Hill which has another NPS Visitor Center and park housing.   It is accessible to rangers via a 45 minute drive down beach or from Long Island via a ferry.  We set off down the beach and learned a lot about the park from Ranger Claire Formanski who has been visiting or working at the park since her early teenage years!  We also saw another ranger making a law enforcement contact with some visitors as we passed by.

Original Coast Guard radar equipment in the rear section of the current ranger station

Checking out the Visitor Center at the Lighthouse


You never know what will wash up on shore!
After some evening adventures and some early morning play on a rainy beach, we drove from the ranger station to park headquarters.  This trip is about 30 minutes each way across the causeway and further east on Long Island. At headquarters, we had the opportunity meet with Superintendent Chris Soller, Chief Ranger John Stewart and Ranger Claire Formanski.  There was also an opportunity for the junior rangers to get started on their workbooks!

Superintendent Soller, ProRanger Williams, Chief Ranger Stewart and Ranger Formanski

It was a pretty dreary afternoon.  We spent some time at the ranger station talking with Ranger Luke DeDominici who supervised the intern last summer.  We also played a little “Guess that Park” and the junior rangers completed their tasks and received their badges.

Justen and the junior rangers work on their badges

Ranger DeDominici congratulates the junior rangers

We returned to Watch Hill for a quiet evening.  On our final morning, Justen was stationed at the Watch Hill Visitor Center so we met him there and engaged in some more activities. 

Justen manning the desk at the Watch Hill Visitor Center
Then we packed up and headed back to the lighthouse.  What visit to a national seashore would be completed without climbing the lighthouse?  So, we climbed all 192 steps to the top – stopping to take notice of step #100.

Fire Island Lighthouse Step #100 of 192.
So, on the first bright and sunny day of our visit, we bid goodbye to Fire Island N.S. and headed up the road to Boston!

Up next:  Boston