The MYSTERY RANCH Fire Line is founded on the backs of a professional workforce whose primary duties are the suppression and management of wildland fires.
These men and women are trained and built for their mission. They ask for very little yet serve the American public, lead from the front, and risk their lives to protect public lands, lives, and private property. To recognize the efforts of these men and women, MYSTERY RANCH would like to introduce the Backbone Series.
The Backbone Series will highlight the backs behind the packs – the faces that put on the packs and boots on the ground – the backbones of which the MYSTERY RANCH Fire Line and the Federal Fire Response has been built.
Our intent is to educate and inform the public of what makes this job so fulfilling and where challenges lie for those who have chosen this profession. We will recognize the men and women who wear our packs daily and those who have for the last time – our valued fallen.
Meet just a few of the fine men and women of the MYSTERY RANCH fire family. Join us on this journey as we lead from the front to learn more about the Forestry Technicians, Supervisory Forestry Technicians, Firefighters, and Wildland Firefighters that put their lives, families, and well-being on the line.
To fuel this educational campaign, we have created
The MYSTERY RANCH Backbone Scholarship
MYSTERY RANCH has partnered with The American Wildfire Experience (AWE) with the BACKBONE Series initiative to process the contributors submissions and award the scholarships. AWE is a California-based nonprofit that specializes in telling the story of wildland fire through education, outreach, and community engagement. Whether its collecting, preserving and sharing the stories of wildland firefighters through our The Smokey Generation oral history project, supporting wildland fire creatives through our Wildland Fire Digital Storytelling Micro-grants, or teaching community members how to run chainsaws and create defensible space around their homes, the American Wildfire Experience strives to inspire people in communities around the world to become active participants in creating their own story of wildland fire resiliency.
Who is eligible?
To qualify for the MYSTERY RANCH Backbone Scholarship, applicants must meet the following criteria:
Current and former wildland firefighters, and their partners Open to international applicants over the age of 18 Individuals are limited to one scholarship per year
Learn more and apply at The American Wildfire Experience.
To fund the scholarship, we have taken two of our top-selling everyday carry packs – the URBAN ASSAULT 21 and the 3-WAY BRIEFCASE – and built them in “wildfire black” with great intent to create a scholarship fund called “The Backbone Scholarship” to support and assist in the education of seasonal Forestry Technicians that want to further their careers in fire or outside of fire. These $1000 scholarships will help the men and women that go above and beyond in the off-season. Fire Classes, medical training, and college education aren’t cheap. Countless men and women work for Federal Land Management Agencies as Forestry Technicians and seek to better themselves in the off-season to compete for permanent appointments. Some individuals use fire as a means to assist with greater life goals and objectives.
10% of proceeds from these unique packs will fund the scholarship and winning contributors will receive a $1,000 scholarship. Winners will be selected anonymously throughout the duration of the campaign.
Moon Dust is a collection of images shot over a length of 4 years by photographer Robert LeBlanc documenting hotshot firefighters in Montana and California.
Nothing compares to being up close to a wildfire.
The August Complex wildfire of 2020, which is currently the largest wildfire in California History, burned throughout the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Mendocino National Forest, and Six Rivers National Forest. The wildfire burned for a total of three months scorching 1,032,648 acres. Rarely do photographers gain intimate access to hotshot crews while on remote wildfires. The images in Moon Dust give an intimate vision of what it’s like battling such an unpredictable natural disaster and how these firefighters risk their lives every day. In partnership with Mystery Ranch and Monster Energy Cares, 100% of proceeds of book sales will be donated to the Eric Marsh Foundation, U.S. Hotshot Association, and Backbone Series Scholarship.
MYSTERY RANCH supports the initiatives that the GRASSROOTS WILDLAND FIREFIGHTERS non-profit is advocating for on behalf of Federal Wildland Firefighters. Visit their website to get involved and learn more about their mission to educate the public, generate support and provide solutions to federal representatives through policy reform.
MYSTERY RANCH employees recently appeared on the Anchor Point Podcast to discuss careers as a hotshot, the Backbone Series, designing packs for the fire line and more
Meet Luke Mayfield
MYSTERY RANCH’s Fireline Program Manager and Founder of the Backbone Series
The Backbone Series has been created to educate the public on the sacrifice and work that goes into responding to the wildland fire environment. The Backbone Scholarship has been created to give back to the men and women that put their boots on the ground when most are driving away. The Backbone Scholarship has been created to assist people in getting where they’re going to.
MYSTERY RANCH is under no obligation to use any Content provided by the contributors to the Backbone Series and may edit or modify the Content for spelling, grammar, and delete any reference to Agency, Forest, District, or specific module, in MYSTERY RANCH’s sole discretion.
This site is not affiliated with any U.S. Government Service or Agency. All content provided on this website is for entertainment and informational purposes only. MYSTERY RANCH makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The owner(s) will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner(s) will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information. Please see our Terms and Conditions for more information. The views and opinions of this campaign – The Backbone Series – do not reflect the views and opinions of the United States government; the Department of the Interior; The Department of Defense; the Department of Agriculture; the United States Forest Service; Bureau of Land Management; National Park Service; Bureau of Indian Affairs; any private, municipal, county, or state firefighting organization; any law enforcement agency, medical provider, or contractor employed by any federal agency.
MYSTERY RANCH makes no warranty, representation or promise not expressly set forth in this agreement. MYSTERY RANCH disclaims and excludes any and all implied warranties, including, without limitation, the implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose and noninfringement. MYSTERY RANCH’s aggregate liability arising from or relating to this agreement or any products or services provided by MYSTERY RANCH hereunder, regardless of the form of action or claim, shall in no event exceed one hundred dollars ($100.00). MYSTERY RANCH shall not in any case be liable for any special, incidental, consequential, indirect or punitive damages even if MYSTERY RANCH has been advised of the possibility of such damages.
(CMS Modal: ID = lukeModal Title = Meet Lucas Mayfield)
Meet Lucas Mayfield
Working for the United States Forest Service as a Forestry Technician is the most gratifying and life-shaping occupation I will ever have, particularly Hotshotting. It shaped my life for the good and the bad. Some of my closest mentors and value system were created from my time in wildland fire.
I worked for the United States Forest Service for 18 seasons. I followed a typical and traditional pathway into my career, meaning I had no intention of pursuing wildland fire as a career. A job with the United States Forest Service was a means to an end – it was one of the better sources of income for a kid trying to cover college tuition and living expenses. Like many, fire, the people, and the lifestyle become addictive. I was in the woods, fit, saw beautiful places, and got to hang out with an amazing and diverse group of men and women.
At 27, I decided that a career in fire and a hotshot was the direction I would take in life. I was single, driven, and dedicated. I also liked my winters off to pursue 5-6 months of whatever I felt. I received my permanent appointment at 29 on an R6 shot crew. I snowboarded 100 plus days a year, worked out, and lived in a cabin with my dog. It was unspeakably simple and the best time of my life (minus getting married and having a daughter).
Life changed, I changed, and I wanted to move up the chain of command. I am married to an amazingly supportive partner. My wife would have supported my career as a hotshot for as long as I continued to pursue it, and that is not common. Along the way, we bought a house, had a kid, and moved a lot. I had two families; mine and my fire family. My fire family took priority for 6-8 months out of the year. Due to the evolution of being a forestry tech and “growing up,” 14-day assignments, 16 hour days, and as much OT as possible became mandatory. The purpose shifted from being a snowboarding guerilla to being responsible for a family. The purpose shifted from being a grunt to being responsible for humans with families that trusted me to make sure their people came home. The purpose shifted to ensuring that backbone, temporary seasonals, and permanent employees met intent and were as comfortable as possible in uncomfortable situations.