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Have you ever wanted to be a wildland firefighter? Do you wonder what it's really like to fight fire, up close, in the wildlands? Just how dangerous, hot, exhausting, adrenaline pumping and rewarding is this type of fire suppression? Do you have what it takes to be a "Hotshot"?
The answers to those questions and much more may be found in a wonderfully produced and directed 50-minute video documentary entitled, "Firefight: Stories From The Frontlines." David Wittkower not only produced and directed this fine account of wildland firefighting, he is a certified wildland firefighter himself.
The opening scenes in this video bring back some memories for me. It was in August 1988, when I spent a week with U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighters in the Angles National Forest in Southern California. One of the crews that I was with was the elite Bear Divide Hotshots and they are one of the focal points in this exciting documentary. Wittkower brings the viewer up very close and personal with the Bear Divide Hotshots and the awesome wildland fires to which they respond.
The fire scenes are for real and are graphically and professionally captured on tape, making this a fast-paced 50 minutes of viewing drama. No Hollywood fantasies in this documentary! The tactics and strategies and many of the weapons used to control, contain and extinguish wildland fires are accurately depicted.
About 25 minutes into the video and the pace slows a bit. The tragic and true stories of the "supreme sacrifices" of wildland firefighters during two firefights are tastefully and respectfully unfolded. They are about the Mann Gulch Fire and the Storm King Mountain Fire, where a total of 27 wildland firefighters perished. Those fires and the young men and women who died therein have become legendary within the wildland fire world. The video gives a clear perspective to these two fires and will bring one's emotions to the surface.
I highly recommend "Firefight: Stories From The Frontlines" if you really want to get an idea of what wildland firefighting is about.
Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and a very safe Y2K.
Robert M. Winston, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a district fire chief in the Boston Fire Department with extensive experience and training in wildland and SWI protection. Questions and comments may be sent to him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org