My name is Deborah Pfingston, and I wear many hats: wife, mother, grandmother, administrator, and teacher. I lost my youngest son, Andrew Ashcraft, in the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30, 2013. I am honored and humbled to be one of the founding members of the Wildland Firefighter Guardian Institute (WFGI). The mission of this organization is a powerful one – one I feel all of us who work in this group have been preparing for all of our lives, including members of my family who support me in the WFGI’s mission. Jerry, my husband, is strong with a lion’s heart. My oldest son, T.J. Ashcraft II, is currently serving our country in the Army. My daughter, Shelby Pfingston, is a college student. I have seven grandchildren (four from Andrew) and all are amazing in their own special way.
I have been in education for almost all of my adult life. My skills and experience include: working with trouble youth, assisting with college/university administration, helping veterans find their educational path, and educating college-bound high school students in the English classroom. I enjoy helping others think past themselves so that they realize there is a vast world of opportunity out there and they can play an active part. I love helping people with their dreams. My mind is a “think tank”. I am always asking how, what, when, where, and why; I always add to that list “what now” and “what’s next”. I am a consumer of knowledge as I need to know every aspect of topics I research.
My work for the Wildland Firefighter Guardian Institute (WFGI) is and will always be passionate. In one of my previous positions of several years at an aeronautical and aviation university, I worked as Program Coordinator for a Masters-degree-level Safety Science program that facilitate learning about NTSB investigations and reports. This position taught me a great deal and continues to inform me whenever I read investigative reports of safety-related incidents. I view them with a professional and objective perspective. In addition, life has taught me when to turn my business mind on and when to let my heart feel. The WFGI is an outlet for me to pour all of my work and life experience into one space for the greater good of our Wildland Firefighter family.
I hold true to WFGI’s motto: Truth, Transparency, Accountability, and Change. If, through the work of the WFGI, one mother does not hear the words, “Your son is not coming home.”, then all of my work, our work, will be well worth it. I want to see every person working in our wildland fire family to have the best, to work with the best, and to achieve their dreams. My son, Andrew, loved working in wildland fire. It truly was his passion. I know in my heart he would be the first to help any one of his wildland firefighter brothers or sisters. I do this work for him. I do this work for his family. I do this work for anyone who stands “at the head of the flaming front”.