Q & A with Jesse Hoh
A 2010 graduate of the Fox Valley Technical College Wildland Firefighter program, 24-year-old Jesse Hoh has already gained impressive professional experience. Jesse’s now building on his skills and experience to expand his long-term career options.
Did you always want to become a firefighter?
I have to admit that I never really thought about being a firefighter until I was a student at Fox Valley Tech. I was taking general education classes when my advisor encouraged me to talk to Rick Buser about this new program. I am an outdoors-type person who loves to hunt and fish, plus I really care about the environment. The more Rick told me about the program, well, it just clicked.
Where was your first job fighting wildfires?
I got my first job in this field in 2009 working for a private contractor in California. I earned this job before I actually graduated from the program.
Describe what your most recent job is like.
Last summer I worked for Sun Fire, a private contracting firm in South Dakota. The company sent us to Georgia to help battle the 300,000-acre honey prairie fire. I was one of around 2,000 firefighters working in the Okefenokee Swamp. We had to build a fire bridge so bulldozers could get in to cut down the vegetation to prevent the fire from spreading. I worked on a lot of fire fronts making sure the fire didn’t cross the bulldozer line.
What do you like most about being a wildland firefighter?
I really enjoy my work. It takes a special person to get excited to go out on the front lines of a fire. I like the intensity of it; it’s a very disciplined and military-like field. You definitely have to like the challenges associated with observing and managing a fire, in addition to being physically ready for it. A lot of important analysis and research goes on before you actually start fighting a fire.
Did you feel well prepared for the job?
Between the math and science classes, my internship working alongside the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fire crew, and the live fire classes, I did feel well prepared. When you’re on the ground during a fire, you have to keep an eye on everything, like the weather and what’s happening around you. You have to quickly apply what you learned. The more training I had at Fox Valley Tech, the more I enjoyed it. I liked learning about weather, topography, and meteorology. To me, those lessons were really cool and piqued my interest.
What are your current plans?
I am going to UW-Oshkosh full-time pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies. I was able to transfer all credits from my associate degree into this program. My goal is to have a dual career where I can fight fires and do environmental work such as being a forester, park ranger, or a scientist for the DNR. There are only six colleges in the U.S. that have associate degree programs in wildland firefighting, so I felt this training would help distinguish my skills and give me an advantage.