Greene helps fight Yosemite wildfires

Published 5:18 pm Tuesday, August 28, 2018

HARROGATE, Tenn. — Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) conservation biology student Clay Greene gained a new level of appreciation for forestry on a recent trip to California to fight wildfires.

Greene spent July 25 through Aug. 7 working 16-hour days battling the blazes that threatened a national treasure and much-loved tourist destination. He was part of a 100-man module, made up of five 20-man crews from Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia and North Carolina that flew together to Fresno, California, then drove north to headquarter camp before deployment into the middle of Yosemite National Park. This was Greene’s first tour in the West.

“It can be a stressful job at times, but the rewarding feeling makes it worth it.

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It was thrilling to see the flames blowing through those tall treetops. It’s like a beautiful evil,” Greene said. “It is fascinating and can even be beautiful, but then you remember the destruction it has caused and is continuing to cause. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve seen it.”

Greene, a native of Bell County and a lifelong outdoorsman, fell in love with forestry and firefighting and got this unique opportunity through Bell County Forestry Ranger Lem Johnson, who was also part of the detail. Greene has served as a Kentucky Division of Forestry seasonal firefighter for over a year now, and this fall will be his third fire season.

To qualify for the trip, Greene was required to take a pack test, which meant hiking three miles in 45 minutes while wearing a 45-pound vest.

Greene’s duties on the trip included firefighting techniques like “digging line” and “burning back” toward the fire to prevent it from spreading, and “mopping up” in smoldering areas that were especially dangerous because of falling trees. He and other firefighters worked to protect the wooded slopes of Glacier Point, a popular tourist destination, which provides epic views of Yosemite Valley.

Despite the danger and long, exhausting hours, Greene is ready to return as soon as possible. “The experience was more than rewarding to me,” Greene said. “It was thrilling, and I will be going back the very next opportunity I get.”

Lincoln Memorial University is a values-based learning community dedicated to providing educational experiences in the liberal arts and professional studies. The main campus is located in Harrogate, Tennessee. For more information about the undergraduate and graduate programs available at LMU, contact the Office of Admissions at 423.869.6280 or e-mail at