Jolie Pollet, division chief for fire planning and fuels management at the Bureau of Land Management. Photo courtesy of Jolie Pollet.
BY THAO TRAN, ERIN MCDUFF, AND JOLIE POLLET
“Diversity is better for everyone. If you have the same kind of people making decisions, you won’t get the full breadth of possible answers to the problems you need to solve.”
For the past seven years, Jolie Pollet has been the fire planning and fuels management division chief at the Bureau of Land Management’s national fire and aviation office in Boise, Idaho. She provides leadership for BLM’s national fire programs, such as fuels management, fire ecology, wildfire reporting and data management, fire planning, fire trespass, and community assistance. For the past 25 years, Jolie has worked in federal fire and resource management in Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, and Utah. She has held a variety of positions, from working on wildland fire crews to managing essential national programs. Jolie holds a bachelor’s degree in geography from the University of New Orleans and a Master of Science degree in forestry from Colorado State University.
What interested you about working in wildland fire?
I moved to Colorado for graduate school during the summer of 1994, which was a very active fire year in Colorado. Colorado State University’s Mountain Campus (also known as Pingree Park) was impacted. I quickly shifted from GIS research into studying fire behavior effects and discovered that I really liked it.
The science of fire is complex and emerging. We don’t know everything there is to know, and I enjoy helping to build the body of knowledge related to fire management.
I also appreciate the people I’ve worked with in the wildland fire community. In addition to the adrenaline boost of working in emergency management, the people are action-oriented, decisive, and focused on getting things done.
What does leadership mean to you?
A good leader is visionary and can bring others along to support that vision as a change leader. I try to emulate the good qualities I have found in leaders I admire.
I think it’s important for leaders to have integrity and strong ethics. I also try to be the best I can in exhibiting empathy and supporting my colleagues. Wildland fire management needs to be done collaboratively, and it’s important to figure out how best to work with others.
These are the things I bring to the table as both a leader and a supervisor.
How can we better support women?
We need to examine the organizational and program biases that are inherent in the work we do and continue to challenge them and look for ways to overcome these barriers.
I left wildland fire for seven years, and I thought that was the end of my fire career. My daughter was four years old at that time, and it was a struggle to support the emergency management aspect of the job.
While it was hard to leave, I received a breadth of experience during my time away, and that turned out to be advantageous when I returned to wildland fire. We need to make resources available to women who may need to step away to explore different career paths because you never know how that experience may circle back around to benefit everyone.
I believe that if you follow your passion and interests and focus on what’s right for you, everything will come together.
Jolie Pollet is the division chief for fire planning and fuels management with the Bureau of Land Management.
Erin McDuff is a public affairs specialist with the Office of Wildland Fire.
Thao Tran is a senior government professional with robust experience overseeing budget, program management, and strategic planning. She previously served as Budget Officer for the Department of the Interior's Office of Wildland Fire and is committed to advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion in the federal government.