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WATCH: Wildfire Season Is Upon Us – Meet the People Risking Their Lives for You

smoke jumperWhen wildfires flare up and begin to spread, fighting them is a race against the clock to protect property and lives. In many ways, this kind of firefighting can be compared to fighting a war. First, there are frontline strategists, like Wildfire Meteorologist, Brenda Belongie, who predict when conditions will be ripe for fires. Her forecasts help prepare firefighting crews for potential deployments into the field.

When conditions are right and a wildfire initiates, the battle is on and it’s time to send out the troops. At the start, guys like Lead Pilot, Dan Johnson guide the operations from the air. And to get that job done, technology plays an important part, for crew safety and aerial recon to confirm effectiveness of the crews efforts.

And even with all the support from the air, it’s the men and women on the ground that get the real work done. The retardant knocks the fire down, so the ground crews have more time to complete all the hand work needed to kill a fire.

Before the ground troops get to the tough and dangerous job of actually fighting the fires, they all go through exhaustive training and for the Smoke Jumpers, that happens in Redding California. Chris Niccoli helps run the operation to keep these firefighters at peak readiness.

And once their training on the ground is complete, they fly out to get their practice jumps in before their real work begins. Jumping from 1500 feet, it’s a static line opening and a quick decent to the ground.

Depending on a fire’s location, firefighters may jump, walk or drive into the site. Dan Mallia runs the Redding Hotshots, one of the groups that drives their buggies to the fires and stays on site until the job is finally done.

So the next time you hear about a wildfire, think about the people who are risking their lives and doing some of the hardest work imaginable to fight one of nature’s most dangerous furies.

For WeatherNation – John Van Pelt

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