Worland resident, Chris Merritt, wins local BLM Firefighter of the Year Award
Worland resident Chris Merritt has been awarded the local Firefighter of the Year Award by the Bureau of Land Management Wind River/Bighorn Basin District (WR/BBD). The award recognizes a firefighter who exemplifies the qualities of leadership, motivation, work ethic, physical fitness and positive attitude.
“Being chosen for this award is a huge honor,” says Merritt. “I enjoy every day I come to work because it’s always a new experience and I strive to learn more.”
This was Merritt’s second season as a firefighter on the WR/BBD fuels crew. Prior to his work with the BLM, he served four years in the U.S. Army, which included a combat tour in Iraq.
“Chris stepped-up into leadership roles within the fuels crew, as well as in hand crews responding to out-of-state fires,” said Aaron Thompson, WR/BBD interim assistant fire management officer. “Chris has a great work ethic and willingness to learn.”
Merritt is assigned to a fuels crew which focuses on the removal of hazardous fuels and the enhancement of habitat and forage for wildlife and livestock. These projects utilize various tools including prescribed burning and mechanical thinning with chainsaws and skid steers. Projects like these are increasingly important as federal, state and local agencies and organizations work collaboratively to improve greater sage-grouse habitat in an attempt to bolster the bird’s population, as well as for the benefit of many other wildlife species that inhabit these ecosystems.
During the fire season, Merritt also responds to wildland fires, both in Wyoming and across the nation. When not wielding a chainsaw or Pulaski, he is training in wildfire suppression drills and physical fitness.
Some of Merritt’s interests include hunting, fishing and spending a lot of time with his son. He is also a volunteer firefighter with the Worland Volunteer Fire Department.
The WR/BBD is pleased that Merritt plans to return next season.
“I love this job and plan on doing it until I physically can’t do it anymore,” Merritt says.