For the public: Jeanne Pincha-Tulley, Grass Valley |

For the public: Jeanne Pincha-Tulley, Grass Valley

The Union StaffJeanne Pincha-Tulley
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What I do in my job: Fire chief, Tahoe National Forest.

Why my job is important to the public: I am honored being among, and leading, elite wildland firefighters who protect communities and natural resources on the Tahoe National Forest. I deal with fire suppression, prevention, education, fuels management, prescribed fire, and aviation management. I am a national incident management team member and respond to wildfires, floods, hurricanes and earthquakes nationwide.

The special skills and talents I bring to my job: I started when there were few women in the fire service; my perspective is unique. I’ve earned strong qualifications and come up through the ranks. I was the first female United States Forest Service fire chief in California, second nationally. It’s a challenging job!

The part of my job that I like the least is: The tragedies. Last year I was part of the investigation team in central Washington, discovering why four firefighter fatalities occurred on the 30-Mile Fire. The heartache and loss cuts deep. Because tragedy abounds in the fire service, I diligently work to train, staff and equip Tahoe National Forest firefighting resources. I want them all home, safe and healthy.

A day of work that I’ll always remember was: One year in Idaho, I was an agency representative flying with Army Blackhawk helicopters. We were dropping water on the Corral Fire. The ‘Hawk in front of mine flew too close to a burning tree. Fire was sucked into the air cushion created by the rotor blades that surrounded the helicopter. Fire spread around the belly of the ship like a deadly halo, then spiraled off the rotor blades. The engines stopped. There was nothing my shipmates or I could do but watch as the crippled ‘Hawk, carrying our friends, auto-rotated toward the ground. Through skill and luck everyone on board landed safely. In a profession where risk abounds it was a disaster averted, but it was just too close.

How I got my job: I attended the University of Washington and was interested in wildland fire science. A professor helped me become a member of a fire crew. It was love at first sight! As a fire management forester, I have the rare opportunity to see forestry accomplishments in a condensed time frame.

How long I’ve been working here: Since 1978, or, in our jargon, 24 fire seasons with the Forest Service, three of those years with the Tahoe National Forest.

My dream job would be: I have my dream job!

My family: I am blessed with an understanding husband, Ed Tulley, real estate broker at Network Realty. He anchors the important parts of my life: our kids and our lives together. We have two brilliant sons: Keith, 16, and Kyle, 12.

My hobbies: Quilting, football, hiking, gardening and shopping.

When I was a kid, I… I was born in Texas and raised in Alabama. I spent most of my time outdoors. My summers were organized into multiple camping trips and geology excursions by my parents. I was a terrible geologist. I would pull dirt back into “exploration” holes so the trees would survive. I still spend much of my summer months “camping” at various wildfires.

If money were no object I would… Work fire seasons and take winters off to be home.

My dream vacation: A tropical cruise.

If a movie were made of my life, I would be played by: Perhaps Cathryn Bell, the woman who plays Sarah McKenzie on “JAG,” or a “conservative maverick” actress with a “signature” laugh.

The people who have made the biggest difference in my life: My mom – third-generation working mom, aeronautical engineer, extremely nonconventional. There are many inspiring women in the USFS. Each taught me; we are all different and each contribution is greatly needed.

My hero: Roger Staubach – always cool under fire (sorry about the pun). “Star Trek’s” Capt. Kirk – direct, confident.

The best book I’ve read lately was (and why): “Jumping Fire!” and “Last Man Down.” The fire service has a flair for experiencing unusual circumstances.

The soundtrack to my life would include these songs: “Your Song,” “Fanfare to the Common Man” and “Danger Zone.”

I like living in Nevada County because… It’s a beautiful place – with wonderful people – to safely raise our sons.

“For the Public” appears each Wednesday. To suggest a public servant to be profiled, call The Union newsroom at 273-9561.

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