Why did I choose the Wildland Firefighter Foundation?
Most people close to my family can answer that for you.
I’m hoping to touch lives across the country; and even though the wildland fire community is as close as a family a lot of you may not know the answer.
In 1988, Yellowstone National Park was on fire. Firefighters from all over the country came to tame the flames. Including my dad and uncle Eddie. Mom was working in dispatch in Casper, WY. Dad and Uncle Ed were working for the BLM out of Casper, WY.
My dad and uncle were on a crew ordered up to head to the Clover Mist Fire in the Crandall Creek area on the Shoshone National Forest.
That was my uncle’s last fire. He was killed by a falling snag on that fire.
At the time I was 3 years old. I wish I was older. I wish I could remember him more. I don’t know if I remember him from my own memories or only form memories from the stories I’m told. Looking at the pictures of us together, we were best friends!
Since Ed’s death the WFF has done a lot for our family in honoring him.
(Here is a very touching article written in 2008 about my uncle. Makes me cry EVERY time!)
I feel like this is the least I can do to repay them!
In 2009, again we lost a member of our “family” that was so close to our hearts.
Brett Stearns was an Engine Captain in Craig, CO.
My family had moved to Craig 1998 due to my parents both getting wildland fire jobs.
Brett had worked his way up from a seasonal employee to Engine Captain. He was also stuck by a snag.
I can still remember the place I was on the interstate when my dad called me with the news. I pulled over and just cried. I cried the rest of the way home to Laramie. I cried for a few
days weeks after. His funeral was the first firefighter funeral I had attended. To see firefighters come all across the country to pay their respects to their fellow brother was AMAZING. People who may not even had known Brett, people who knew Brett their whole lives, people who’s lives had been touched by Brett’s awesomeness…it didn’t matter we were all there to celebrate Brett!
I have a lot of very close friends who are practically family to me that spend their summers chasing smoke and flames. My family is still in the business. I chase fires when I can. Every spring we’re required to take the fire refresher. Usually at this time you go around and introduce yourself and say how many years you’ve been fighting fire. Usually I tell them my current age. They look at me a little funny and then I explain that my mom fought fires when she was pregnant with me. So fighting fires is really in my blood. And I can’t shake that feeling I get when I see a smoke.
I hate hearing about line of duty deaths. I usually take it a little harder than maybe your average Joe, but it hits so close to home for me. When we lost the Granite Mountain 19 earlier this year I cried myself to sleep for a few nights. I asked over and over again WHY? Why them? I repeated so many times over and over to anyone that would listen that I just wanted them back. I wanted them to be able to go home to their families and friends. I didn’t know a single one. But I felt like I did. I felt like I knew each and everyone.
The tattoo of the purple ribbon with flames coming out of the top with the words “Never Forget” written underneath is on my left side ribs. Close to my heart. I got this tattoo to honor all of the fallen and to Never Forget a single one of them.
Now that you know my story and the why, I ask you to share yours! How has a firefighter touched your life?