How We Started

Wildfire Network was another of my many crazy ideas back in 2013 after having participated as a Technical Advisory Panel member on NM's Collaborative Forest Restoration Program (CFRP). Seeing some of the collaborative work being done on public lands, the idea to accomplish "sorta-kinda" the same thing on private lands came into focus.  Over a year and half the idea morphed into a what I sometimes envisioned as a huge Medusa...  all these intertwined strands of needs coming out of one head....


I started in fire as a volunteer after having put myself through 25 years of drugs and alcohol, and quickly got invited into the wildland side of my department, learning the ropes from some of the older members of the department. I had the hand-me-down gear of the department to use (which was all way too big and I had no belt - so at 2am heading to a fire in Mora, our engine boss grabbed a rope to string through my pants and dubbed me "Ellie May" - a reference to the Beverly Hillbillies TV show).  I give a lot of credit to my volunteer department family and fire itself for pulling me totally out of my nasty habits (although it did not happen over night).  I participated in wildland firefighting not only through the volunteer department, but also with some private contractors in the area. I learned A LOT.  7 years later I joined the county fire department in a newly created wildland division as a fuels crew member, working on grant funded thinning projects on various public lands in the county.  We then began a program of outreach educating the public about wildfire risk and creating a parcel level wildfire hazard risk assessment system.  We were somewhat shorthanded so I was also dumped on  blessed with taking over the writing and reporting of the grants we were funded with, as well as maintaining qualifications and coordinating county volunteer firefighting crews being dispatched by State Forestry. During that time I was introduced to a bunch of organizations, scientists, other governmental agency personnel all working on the same things who were kind enough to educate me in wildfire mitigation theories and techniques, the NWCG qualifications process, the business of wildfire and a host of other stuff which I sucked up like a sponge.  I also learned that there are a lot of things within wildland that need to be changed. We had some good successes,  the assessment system won a National Association of Counties Achievement Award, I was invited to participate with Forest Stewards Guild in the kick-off of the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network, I stayed on the NM CFRP advisory panel for another 3 years and finally made the leap to start a nonprofit (with no experience, no money, and no idea what the hell I was getting into...)


Krista Bonfantine is a watershed ecologist who grew up in Albuquerque dreaming of becoming a marine biologist. She holds a M.S. in Water Resources from the University of New Mexico and a B.S. in Biology from Colorado State University. A goal throughout her career has been to educate and engage with the public on natural resource issues. Krista founded Arid Land Innovation in 2006 with the intention of building a firm that combines ecology, fire, and watershed science with community participation and public education. Her experience includes watershed and forest health assessment, fuels management, hydrology, community wildfire planning, and fire ecology. She recently founded a company called Field Measures that is developing mobile applications for collecting and reporting ecological field data. In her free time, Krista serves as president of a small community water cooperative in Sandia Park. 


Wildfire is connected to just about everything you can think of...  land management, economic development, kid development, farming and ranching, home building, food production, water conservation, tourism, and on and on...   It's just a part of all natural systems and a necessary one at that. The question then became how to best combine all of these connections to create programs that actually accomplish something good. (comb out the damn Medusa head...)


Start at the beginning! Kids need landscapes and the landscapes need kids. Dirt and duff are healthy and so much fun to play with, wallow in and eat - in moderation, of course :)  Kids are so into computer stuff, phone stuff, TV stuff, drama stuff, and general sitting around stuff these days that they forget that there is a whole live world around them waiting to be explored and understood. I get pretty suspicious of clean kids, so we started a curriculum in K-8 schools and are working to create an outdoor after school program where these kids can get dirty learning about soils, water, erosion, fire, trees, bugs and fitness etc., and how these things all affect their community and lives. They will then take that knowledge and work on a small project in a Firewise community in the area, getting dirty, working hard and helping a neighborhood accomplish their firewise requirements.  Healthy, active kids do better in school and going home tired with a sense of accomplishment and enthusiasm, they can then explain to and teach their parents about all the cool stuff they did, encouraging their own community to participate in becoming fire adapted. 


We continue and expand that process with older, at risk youth, by partnering with Santa Fe Youthworks, Forest Measure, and Ecotone. We've got a pilot project going on where they are learning fuels measuring techniques, monitoring, fire behavior, erosion control techniques, compass and maps, and how to thin properties properly - without causing more damage in the process.  We are also putting them through basic wildland firefighting classes, guide them into earning national qualifications as basic wildland firefighters, getting them fit to pass a pack test ( ie: Work Capacity Test, required for wildland firefighting) and teaming up with the NM Prescribed Fire Council, Forest Stewards Guild and other agencies to have them participate on prescribed fires on both public and private lands, interacting with fire and learning how beneficial fire can be to the landscape. These guys are available, willing and learning to become great mitigation contractors for private land owners. 


We then take it to the next step of adults, outside of federal and state fire fighting agencies, who also want to learn about beneficial burning and guide them through the training and certification processes they need to participate. The qualifications they earn are all to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) standards and stay with them if they choose to pursue a career in fire.  This allows such folks as scientists wanting to study fire behavior or effects, and retired agency folks who want to keep up their qualifications a way to do it.


And finally, we work with landowners to create healthy, resilient properties that stand a much better chance of surviving a natural disaster such as flood or fire, cutting down the potential damage and cost to the entire community. Utilizing our kids and youth we can do this cost-effectively and give them the hands-on training they need to enter the workforce or create businesses for themselves, boosting the economic development in our area.


That's some of the ideas that we've implemented so far...  we've got plenty more...  if you are interested in talking to us about more ideas, want to talk about how we can help you, or you are interested in helping us out,  give us a shout. (or you can fill out that form on the right.)

that's me picking up treasure I found - an old crescent wrench :)
We need board members who have some skills they'd be willing to share:
  • Accounting
  • Fundraising
  • Wildland fire instructing
  • Business

Please contact us if you feel you'd be a good fit.

Our Mission

Wildfire Network works in pursuit of community wildfire resiliency by working with young adults and communities to promote firefighter safety, job development and youth mentorship. Through wildland fire and land management training, we employ and mentor at-risk youth in forest health, wildfire mitigation and safe firefighting techniques. We provide assistance to communities with wildfire risk reduction and property stewardship.

Wildfire Network believes the cornerstone of community wildfire resiliency is education in adaptive management techniques on and around private property.

youth training day

About Wildfire Network

We are a nonprofit 501(c3) based in Edgewood, NM

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Wildfire Network's founder is a Certified Wildfire Mitigation Specialist, through the NFPA

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Get in Touch

Wildfire Network
47 Sunset Blvd
Edgewood NM 87015


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