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“You can’t beat Mother Nature:” former Hotshot firefighter on wildfires

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) - The U.S. Forest Services has a team of Hotshot crews that are highly trained in wildfire management.

They perform demanding and hazardous tasks like building fire lines to stop fires from spreading. The Hotshot crews require a high level of physical fitness and knowledge.

Stuart Daniel is a former Hotshot firefighter that battled wildfires for over two years and now owns and runs his own mechanic shop in El Paso.

"That is one rough [job], that's the hardest I have ever worked in my whole life," Daniel said. "Some of it was really scary. Pine trees literally exploding because the fire gets so hot, and if the fire blows up on you, you just got to run," he added.

Daniel says wildfires like the South Fork and Salt Fires are hard to get under control due to the conditions in the area.

"That is real hard because it's got a lot of vegetation, dense, you got houses you got everything in there too and then the wind." He added "You are trying to make a path in the vegetation so the fire won't jump. So you got the fire right next to you and you are trying to stop by a three foot path...clear all the vegetation, chainsaws you clear all the trees out and move them out of the way, any grass you just shave it down."

The work, besides being physically demanding, is also very dangerous.

"I ended up getting scorched lungs because the fire jumped over the ridge and came underneath the shoot from us, and I had to jump off a cliff," just one experience Daniel shared.

Hotshot crews were first started in Southern California in the late 1940s and were called Hotshot crews because of their work in the hottest areas of a wildfire.

The National Interagency Hotshot Crew Steering Committee says there are over 100 crews across the country that are part of the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service, and state agencies.

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Jason McNabb

Reporter/Multimedia Journalist & ABC-7 Weekend Primetime Anchor


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