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 Wildland Cooperative
 

Mental health programs for Wildland Firefighters

Donations to our fundraiser support sponsorships for Wildland firefighters to participate in our programs.

Why do Wildland Firefighters need support?


Wildland Firefighters experience rates of suicide, depression, anxiety, addiction, alcoholism, and PTSD at rates up to 10x higher than the average population. This quiet epidemic of poor mental health has been largely unaddressed in the Wildland firefighter community. 

Many Wildland Firefighters work tirelessly to protect our forests, homes and communities, and their demanding work can sometimes have negative impacts on physical, mental and emotional health. These men and women work sixteen-hour days for fourteen days straight with extremely inadequate pay and have only two days to rest and recover before going back out on another assignment.

Prolonged periods of arduous labor in smokey, dangerous environments, inadequate rest and nutrition, constant vigilance, prolonged stress and cumulative fatigue can all wreak havoc on the body’s natural equilibrium. Periodic intense, life-threatening situations, near misses or tragic losses can result in trauma, grief and sometimes PTSD, and without the tools or the time to process these experiences some firefighters may turn to unhealthy coping strategies.

 

As wildfires increase across the globe, now more than ever there is a need to support our firefighters on the front lines.
 

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Nourishing Wholesome Activity

How does this program support Wildland Firefighters?

We offer mental health programs for Wildland Firefighters in the lush rainforest of Costa Rica.

 

Our programs are facilitated by Wildland Firefighter and other experts of spiritual practices. Our facilitators help firefighter's to experience rejuvenation through nervous system recovery, mental and emotional health support, and meaningful connection to nature. In exchange, firefighters use their forestry skills to help us protect 7,500 acres of Eco Era's pristine rainforest.

Our program integrates health and wellness for firefighters while providing invaluable restoration work to the rainforest. 

Program Elements

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INTEGRATION FOCUSED

Integration is an essential component of this program. We believe that the true benefit of attending this type of retreat happens afterward, when you are able to integrate the teachings, lessons, and healing experiences into your daily life to create more harmony with all your relations, and be of greater service to your community.  

PRODUCED BY WILDLAND FIREFIGHTERS

This program is created with the guidance of Wildland firefighters whose lives were greatly benefited by plant medicine and contemplative practice. The elements of this program are designed to address the specific needs of the Wildland community. Firefighters will be on-site as assistant-facilitator support throughout the program. 

CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE

Mediation and mindfullness practices are a means to establish a sense of inner peace and calm. The practice of sitting still and focused helps slow down to examine and heal the root of suffering. A daily practice of meditation creates a foundation for the nervous system to begin to relax and let go of stress responses. A greater sense of well-being naturally arises accompanied by feelings of compassion for others and an ability to drop unhealthy coping mechanism.

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COMMUNAL RITUAL

The ritual practice of Temezcal, or sweat lodge, is an ancient method of releasing stagnant stress, fear, anger, and other inhibitions. Temezcal utilizes the power of fire to transform the nervous system and spirit. It was traditionally used for the healing, revitalization and team strengthening of indigenous warriors. Oftentimes people experience this ritual as a complete reset or rebirth.

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CONNECTION TO NATURE

This program takes place in a deep pocket of nature. Every activity is itegrated into a relationship with the natural world. We practice like this to create inner balance with nature that teaches us to receive support from this earth, and live in harmony with the seasons, rhythms, waters and forests, animals and plant life of our planet. Our bodies have the inherent ability to establish, maintain, and restore health - this process is aided by being in nature. 

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NERVOUS SYSTEM RECOVERY

Rest is vital for better mental health, increased concentration, a healthier immune system, reduced stress, and improved mood. The location of our space is deeply supportive to rest and rejuvenation. The sound of the forest, the river, and the peaceful, safe energy cultivated in this space allows people to fully let go, drop their guard and experience a true state of relaxation, unaccompanied by feelings of restlessness or boredom.

Program Producers

Meet the Wildland firefighters who supported Eco Era to produce this program.

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Russell Kennedy

Russell Kennedy has been fighting wildfires since 2001. He worked for 5 years as an Idaho City Hotshot until he became an Alaska Smokejumper in 2014. In 2017, he was introduced to plant medicine in the Colombian Amazon and experienced a powerful transformation. For the past 7 years he has since been practicing Zen Buddhism and connecting his firefighting career to buddhist principles and the wisdom of plant medicines. He now works as the Fire Marshal for the San Francisco Zen Center.

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Kris Baumgartner

Kris is currently the Superintendent of the Pioneer Peak Hotshot Crew and has been fighting wildfire since 2007. He has been the Superintendent of Pioneer Peak Hotshots since 2017. He views leadership as a support role for those we lead and he finds joy in supporting his people. He is a registered Peer Supporter for his agency and he is a member of the State’s Critical Incident Stress Management Team. 

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Rob Thomas

Rob began his work in wildland fire on handcrews in Lake Tahoe and Alaska. He transitioned into restoration forestry and training young adults in this field. A road to Rob's Buddhist practice began with plant medicine work and international travel to study religious practices. After several years of residency at the San Francisco Zen Center, Rob helped co-found an annual retreat for wildland firefighters at their temple in Central California, the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center.  

Program Location

Our program takes place at our retreat facility,Posada Natura, located on the central pacific coast of Costa Rica, 8 miles from the world famous beach, Manuel Antonio. Resting on the banks of the pristine Rio Naranjo, one of cleanest rivers left on earth, it stewards and stands at the base 7,500 acres of our protected, primary rainforest reserve. 

Wildland Firefighters are among the lowest paid professions in the United States. Please consider making a donation to fund scholarships for this program. 

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