Nolan BuckinghamEarly Career in Fire Operations
Mr. Nolan Buckingham currently serves as crew superintendent of the first of its kind Kootenai National Forest OU3 Asbestos Wildland Fire Suppression Module. This 10-person module, established by Mr. Buckingham, is responsible for suppressing wildfires and mitigating wildfire hazards in the 30,000-acre Operable Unit 3 (OU3) of the Libby Superfund site. In addition to the typical challenges associated with wildland firefighting in the steep terrain of the Kootenai National Forest, a new level of complexity is added by the Superfund site. The tree bark, duff, and soil in this area has documented presence of Libby Amphibole Asbestos, a well-known toxic substance that requires the use of Positive Air Pressure Respirators (PAPRs) when suppressing wildfires in the area. Leading the nation’s first ever Hazmat wildland firefighting module includes unique challenges, such as ensuring safety of the crewmembers, which Nolan effectively managed. Nolan ensured his crew correctly wore PPE and were decontaminated following assignment in the Superfund area. During the 2018 and 2019 summer fire seasons Nolan’s crew experienced zero injuries, a testament to his leadership and commitment to safety. Another testament to Nolan’s leadership is his crew retention rate. Despite the challenging and frequently uncomfortable nature of fighting fire in a hazmat area, over half of Nolan’s crew from 2018 returned in 2019. With the Kootenai hazmat module as a pilot, Nolan and his crewmembers have created a workable model for suppression of wildfires in Superfund and other hazardous locations across the country. Similar adherence to safety guidelines, training, and replicable procedures established and perfected by Nolan will allow other similarly situated Forest Service districts to safely suppress and mitigate wildfires in hazmat areas. When not serving as crew superintendent of the OU3 module Mr. Buckingham serves as a crew boss and prescribed burn boss for Chloeta during the fall and spring prescribed burn seasons in the southeastern and Midwestern United States, responsible for a portfolio of prescribed burn projects exceeding 15,000 acres annually. Nolan is also a wildland fire instructor for both Chloeta and Colorado Firecamp.