Twenty firefighters based out of Tell City are on standby to help battle the Arizona wildfires. The team trains and prepares for moments like this. Moments where they’re called out west to battle wildfires.
“You may have to wait,” says Ryan Otto. “You may want to act and get to work immediately, but you have to wait.”
Waiting is what he is doing. Waiting for the call to battle the Arizona wildfire.
“Most of us that have decided to do this for a career, we always want to be in the middle of it,” he says. “So, sitting here, waiting for that phone to ring is tough.”
He’s among the twenty specialized firefighters on standby at Hoosier National Forest. The Tell City based team could head out west while the tragic deaths of a hot shot crew weigh on their minds.
“This is typical line gear, and fire shelter sits right there.”
Once called, they’ll take their gear, weighing up to 45 lbs. with them, including an 8 lb. fire shelter.
“That’s a last ditch effort,” Otto says. “Something that none of us want to do. I hope to never do it.”
It’s the one thing firefighters says can wait.
“The desire is to never pull it out of the bay and I’ve never had to,” Otto says.
“We do it safely,” says Hoosier Fire Management Officer Terry Severson. “We do it well, and things like this happen, but it’s one of the reasons why we do it. Plus we train for it, we’re good at it and when there’s a need, we just go.”
But sometimes, Severson says, they have to wait for safer conditions, so they don’t make their loved ones wait for the bad news to reach home.
“If it’s a fire situation, or a tree or anything like that, that tree’s not worth not coming home to my two daughters,” he says.
Severson and Otto add the fire shelters design changed a few years ago. One reason was the previous design made it too easy for dangerous gases to enter the shelter once deployed.