Campus Closeup: Pete Glover
Students in Northern’s wildland firefighting program don’t have to question instructor Pete Glover’s credentials or whether his knowledge and skills are up to date. Glover actively practices what he teaches as a full-time fire supervisor with the Michigan DNR. He responds to Marquette County wildfires, but also answers nationwide calls for assistance when hot spots flare up elsewhere. Glover spent much of August in California helping crews battle the Beaver fire, which burned more than 32,000 acres, and the Happy Camp Complex fire, which is about 97 percent contained after consuming 134,000 acres.
“It would be impossible for a single agency to hire enough full-time, permanent employees within its budget to fight fires on that large of a scale,” said Glover. “So there are agreements in place nationwide which allow other agencies to send personnel and equipment over state lines as needed. That movement is facilitated by a national coordinating center in Boise, Idaho, and the hosting agency pays for travel, wages and expenses.”
When Glover receives a call from beyond his home base, he makes a two-week commitment and is assigned to a specific position. He is qualified to fill several roles, so his duties vary. This summer, Glover initially was pre-positioned in Idaho as an incident commander, but was rained out after a week and reassigned to the Beaver fire as a heavy equipment boss.
“We were running an excavator on incredibly steep slopes while crews were rehabbing the fire lines. A fire requires oxygen, heat and fuel to burn. If you can remove one or more of those, you can get it under control. It’s not often you can remove oxygen from a large wildland fire, so you concentrate on removing fuel such as trees, shrubs and grass. Sometimes fuel breaks can be natural—a river or lake. Other times you have to construct a break through the woods with a bulldozer, hand tools or other equipment.”
After a few days, Glover transferred to the Happy Camp Complex fire, where he served as a task force leader who coordinated the efforts of engine and hand crews. Unlike most wildfires, which are started by humans deliberately or carelessly, both of these California blazes were ignited by lightning strikes.
“When you’re on a job like that, the one goal is putting out the fire safely and everything else just fades into the background. It’s nice to focus on one thing occasionally. One thing I love about this career is the view from the office window. I’m an outdoors person and I get to see some incredibly beautiful places across the country. I also love the people you meet along the way—other adrenaline junkies who share a love for the outdoors and all have a story to tell. It’s nice camaraderie and there’s a satisfaction in helping people.”
Closer to home in Marquette County, one of Glover's assignments was coordinating the initial attack on the fast-moving jack pine fire south of Ishpeming in 2009 (pictured below). It was later named the Black River Falls Fire and burned more than 800 acres and several structures before crews could contain it.
Before assuming his DNR post, Glover worked with the Alaska Fire Service. As a Northern student, he put in long hours there during the summer to pay his way through school, then returned for a few years after graduation. Based on his positive experience, Glover approached NMU in 2001 with the idea of offering a class to let students know summer work was available and that it could lead to a career in wildland firefighting or a related field. NMU expanded the number of courses and developed a certificate program in the School of Health and Human Performance. Glover, along with Jeff Noble and a cadre of other professional firefighers, are the instructors.
“We teach nationally certified courses so students can go anywhere in the country and work for different agencies. NMU is making a mark because I bump into students and alumni all over. I’ve also found myself that the best way to learn something is to teach it. Being an instructor has helped me tremendously on the fire line because I need to communicate and explain what’s going on. I tell students I’m not a professor and refined speaker, but I’m a firefighter who can teach you how to fight fires. Having real-world experience and living it and breathing it goes a long way.”