Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Tom Hopkins Returns From Firefighting In Oregon

PALMDALE, FL – Florida Forest Service Forest Ranger Tom Hopkins returns home to Glades County after suppressing wildfires in the state of Oregon. Tom served eighteen days fighting multiple wildfires across the state, including the Pumice Complex (Crater Lake National Park), running initial attack in the Chiloquin National Forest, and ending on the Murderers Creek Fire (John Day). 

As Assistant Crew Boss of a twenty-person wildland firefighting hand-crew, his days were full of eating smoke and battling flames, while at night he served as his crew liaison. The Florida Forest Service established a hand-crew consisting of 20 nationally qualified wildland firefighters who served on the front lines of wildland fire. 

Working side by side, the crew’s main responsibility was to construct a “fireline” – a strip of land cleared of flammable materials and dug down to mineral soil – around the wildfires to control it and to mop up after the fire.

“The sense of adventure and brotherhood is what drives me to this occupation,” Forest Ranger Tom expounds. “The cohesiveness and dependability that is developed between 20 strangers is amazing. Two weeks in a high stress atmosphere will let you know just how much you need those guys.” 

The wildland firefighters come together from the tip of the Panhandle, all the way to south Everglades, and everything in between. A hand-crew’s day starts before sunrise when they obtain the operational briefing. “Extended work hours, and sleeping on the ground is the only down side. The sense of pride, knowing we are battling nature one on one is fulfilling.” Tom states. “Our gear weighs roughly 35-40 lbs and climbing straight up a ridgeline is physically challenging but adrenaline, team work and humor get you through the day.”

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