wildfire ablaze behind silhouetted pine trees

BARB GREW UP ON THE CROW INDIAN RESERVATION in Eastern Montana. When she was not in school, she spent untold hours roaming the Big Horn Mountains near her home hunting, fishing, or camping. So, when she decided to take a seasonal job with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) during a college break, it seemed like a natural way to make some extra money, but it would end up changing her life.

It’s been thirty-one years since that summer job, and for the last twenty-seven years she has been fighting fires for various government agencies. From her beginnings as a NFS field firefighter, to her time on a Hot Shot crew, to the last ten years at the Northern Rockies Coordination Center in Missoula, Montana as a dispatcher, she has dedicated her professional life to keeping wildland fires under control.

Barb Whiteman portrait

As a dispatcher, she and her team act as the quarterback for any fire response that occurs in her part of the country. They field the calls from fire spotters, plot its location and call out the appropriate response teams. It could be as simple as a quick flyover to assess the situation or dispatching an entire crew to get a jump on containment. If the conflagration grows, they call in air support and other assets to begin the battle to stop the wildfire before it can do any damage.

Barb is on the clock year-round and even works with hurricane recovery efforts during storm relief, and has travelled to South Africa to teach her skills to emergency response crews there. Nothing makes her happier than helping others both in areas of need and in the classroom.

Smokey Bear - 75 years of vigilance

Filson Smokey Bear tops Shop Smokey