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Outdoorsman Makes Career of Protecting Forests

gonzalesWilliams resident Arthur Gonzales, head fire official on the Kaibab National Forest, said he was “surprised, proud and very humbled,” to be named Forest Fire Management Officer of the Year.

“I don’t do this job for recognition. I do it because I love the work and the benefits I see that are provided not only to me as a forest user, but also to my family and my community,” Gonzales said.

He was born and raised in Winslow, attended Winslow High School, and has spent his 22-year career in the Southwest, working in fire. Before joining the Kaibab National Forest, he worked on the Apache and Sitgreaves National Forests in eastern Arizona, the Gila National Forest in New Mexico and also at the Grand Canyon National Park. He has served as the Kaibab’s fire staff officer since 2011.

Forest Service officials say he was selected for the honor for leading a progressive, balanced fire program. “Arthur is a great example of honesty, integrity and duty. He truly loves what he does, and his passion shows,” said Kaibab National Forest Supervisor Heather Provencio. “He is innovative and forward thinking and is never satisfied with the status quo, but rather is always looking for a more efficient and better way to complete a task, accomplish a job, run the forest, or move the agency forward in some way.”

Under Gonzales’s leadership, Provencio says the Kaibab doubled its 10-year average in prescribed fire accomplishments in 2015. He also has been recognized as the Outstanding Student in advanced fire behavior course by the International Association of Wildland Fire

and honored by the cadre of the S-590l Advanced Fire Behavior Interpretation course at the National Advanced Fire and Resource Institute in Tucson.

He says he was particularly honored that he was chosen for recognition by his peers and coworkers. “All the work we do is intended to benefit the ecosystem, and the communities we live in are part of that ecosystem. Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to have developed an understanding of how fire has shaped landscapes and how it has been critical in developing and providing the opportunities I so greatly enjoy in the outdoors.”

Gonzales says his wife, Michelle, and sons J.P., 11, and Tomas, 8, spend as much time as they can outside in activities such as camping, hiking, fishing, hunting and birding.
Who has inspired you and why? 

My father. I’ve always appreciated my father, but the older I get and the more experience I gain in being a father myself, the more I realize the sacrifices he made to provide for our family. Through good times and bad, he was always there for our family and he instilled values in me that I believe make me a very humble, but confident, respectful and proud father, friend and Forest Service employee. My sense of pride in the work I do comes from the exposure to all things outdoors that my father provided to me throughout my childhood.”

What character trait do you most value in yourself and others? 

“I’d have to say a sense of family is my strongest character trait. I come from a large family with an incredible network of relatives. My highest priority in life is to support and care for my wife and two boys.”

What advice would you give young people wanting to get into firefighting? 

“Fire management was a very unexpected career path for me, but looking back, I’m not sure I can think of a more rewarding, exciting and educational career. The physical and mental endurance it takes to be a firefighter will help instill a sense of pride, ownership and responsibility in individuals to better themselves, their team or organization, and their communities. Firefighting offers an exciting opportunity for young men and women to help pay their way through college and expose those folks to a wide variety of resource management experiences so that they can begin to formulate or solidify their future career paths.”

What is your favorite restaurant? 

“Nothing I’ve experienced thus far can top my mom’s home cooking. However, I do enjoy La Fonda Restaurant. Anyone who knows me understands how picky I am when it comes to food. There’s so many options on their menu that I was raised on and it’s as close to mom’s cooking as I’ve had.

What actor will play you in the movie?

“I’d have to settle on Jack Black. I enjoy the free-spirited and comical roles he has played. I take life and my job very seriously, but I always have fun doing so. I love to make others laugh and enjoy the time we have together, no matter how intense the job may be.”


 By Patty McCormac, FBN

Photos credit Dyan Bone, courtesy of Kaibab National Forest



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