A Look into Ryan Curls Career in Fire

Recently we've shared a lot on the history behind our team members careers.

This week we had an opportunity to speak with our captain in training Ryan Curl, and here's what he had to share:


When did you start fighting forest fires, and how that led you to start working with 10 Tanker?


“I started fighting fire in 1990 as a ground crew firefighter for the Bureau of land management in the Idaho Falls district. I did a bunch of different stuff. I got to work on hand crews. helitack crews. Anything that was fire related at all, I pretty much did it. In 1997, I became a private pilot, but hadn't really intended on doing anything with that. And then a friend of mine, (the same guy that taught me how to fly) became what's called a lead plane pilot.

I saw a path to something that was a hell of a lot better than being a ground pounder. So, in 1997, I kind of pointed my gun in that direction. For the next several years I fought fires all summer long, and then I'd go out and be a starving pilot in the winter, finding flight time wherever I could, and going wherever I was needed.


I was flying out to Panama, Jamaica, and the eastern seaboard down in the Florida Keys. I was a flight instructor, flew skydivers, hauled cargo, just a bunch of different stuff.

In 2003, I had enough flight time that I could start applying for lead plane pilot positions.


I was hired as a lead plane pilot with BLM, the same agency for whom I’d been fighting ground fires for years.

In my case, I went through all the different iterations of the aviation side of the house, ground firefighter, up through the ranks to air tactical group supervisor, and then ultimately lead plane pilot beginning in 2004. I worked for the BLM national aviation office from 2004 to 2018.


After 28 years with the federal government, I knew it was time to move on. I was kind of looking around for other possibilities and talked with 10 Tanker Lead Pilot Kevin Hopf and company President John Gould, and they said if I wanted to jump ship, I'd have a happy home with 10 Tanker.



So, in 2018, I left my role as a Lead Pilot and went to work for 10 Tanker as a Captain in training.”


You were recently doing air tech management over in Mexico, right?


"Yeah, I got all the way back to my roots of 2007, or excuse me, 1997 I should say, when I very first started doing air attack as an air tactical group supervisor. I went down there as an air tactical group supervisor/lead plane at the request of our president, John Gould, basically just to make things safer for our guys.



Basically, my job was to commandeer a helicopter and then go out every day and figure out where they want to drop the retardant. Then I would determine whether it was safe enough to do so. If I determined that it was then I'd call the captain of the air tanker and I'd have them launch.

It was a rewarding experience to go return to my roots in both aerial firefighting and tactical support. It was a successful mission.”

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