National Wildland Firefighter Monument
The National Wildland Firefighter Monument is a tribute to wildland firefighters and everyone who supports them throughout the entire nation. Featuring three, eight-foot-tool bronzed statues of firefighters, the monument represents the memories of fallen firefighters, the essential work of past, current, and future firefighters, and the entire community who has been an integral part of the wildland firefighter lifestyle, and the dangers it entails. The monument is located on a one-acre plot of land on the grounds of the National Interagency Fire Center’s (NIFC) headquarters near the Boise airport. Sculpted by acclaimed sculptor Lawrence Nowlan, the monument is also a beautiful example of a Saint-Gaudens style of sculpture, which is characterized by the use of light and shadow to simulate depth. The National Wildland Firefighter Monument continues to serve as a reminder of the why firefighters and public safety are and will always be a top priority in wildland fire management.
Backstory and Context
History of the Monument
Since 1965, the Boise Interagency Fire has been central to the management and co-ordination of wildland firefighting resources and national preparedness. Today, this same organization is called the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), and several national and state assets are all involved in the NIFC, including the United States Forest Service, the U.S. Department of Interior, the United States Fire Administration, the U.S. National Weather Service, and many others.
The idea to construct the National Wildland Firefighter Monument as a tribute and honor to wildland firefighters came after the tragic 1994 South Canyon Fire in Colorado. This fire, started by a lightning strike near the base of Storm King Mountain (near Glenwood Springs, CO), took the lives of 14 wildland firefighters. In the aftermath of the tragedy, the Wildland Firefighter Foundation was created and established in Boise at the NIFC headquarters. The main purpose of the Foundation is to provide assistance to the families of fallen firefighters and to firefighters injured in the line of duty.
The Wildland Firefighter Foundation officially became a registered nonprofit in 1999, and part of its groundbreaking ceremony was the construction of the National Wildland Firefighter Monument. Sculptor Lawrence Nowlan was chosen to create the monument, and it was his first major project. At the time, Nowlan was still an artist-in-residence at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site. The decision to choose Nowlan was also one of the few times that an employee of the National Park Service had been chosen to create a national monument.
The National Wildland Firefighter Monument features three, eight-foot-tall bronze statues of firefighters standing in silent testimony to hard-working men and women on the fireline. In addition to the statues, there is also a waterfall feature that was created by NIFC employees Bill Michell and Hugh Carson.1