Meade County Firewise program, preparing veterans for career outside the military

STURGIS, S.D. — In 2012, Meade County adopted its Firewise program. Funded by the Bureau of Land Management, the program provides training and resources to veterans.

The Meade County Firewise program creates all veteran crews to do fire mitigation work for private landowners throughout the northern Black Hills. The purpose is to provide unemployed veterans with short-term employment while guiding them to long-term career paths.

As part of the program, employees work four days a week, and the fifth day is reserved for in-house career and personal development.

“We are able to offer job shadowing opportunities, resume building opportunities, interview skill enhancement based on whatever each individual need is,” said Lisa Parks, the veteran administrator. “That’s what we address.”


Although it is temporary, the program does provide veterans with a work history, new skills, and new references. Many military members join very young, and need extra guidance in moving on with their lives after separation. Supporting all veteran teams provides a level of camaraderie and helps ease veterans into civilian life. 

“I was having a hard time figuring out with my military job, what job I should do, or what career I should go after, and I ran into this,” said Jesse Harvey the new Fire Mitigation Crew Chief. “I saw this job opening, and it’s an awesome fit.”

Although the program is geared towards newly discharged veterans, the program is open to all vets, and helps to get them any help they need to move forward. This has included veterans struggling with depression, addiction, and even homelessness.

“Being a part of the Meade County Firewise program has meant a lot to me,” said Parks. “It’s an opportunity to give back to the veterans, the men and women who’ve done so much for our country. This is an opportunity that’s open to any veteran, and we’re here for you.”

Harvey said he feels heard in the program, and that it will help propel him to his ultimate dream of business ownership.

“Don’t be afraid to figure out what s available for you through support,” said Harvey. “Don’t feel like you don’t need it, it s there for you. It’s given to you because people care and they want to help you.”


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