As wildfire season roars on in the western states, thousands of wildland firefighters from across the country are working to save homes and keep us out of harms way.
Michael Gue, a wildland fire module leader in Montana who posts about his job on Instagram, told The Huffington Post the job is far more complex than just putting out fires. Firefighters have to take into account all kinds of resources “like private property, infrastructure, fisheries, soils [and] wildlife, and try to manage the current situation as best we can,” Gue said.
They don’t always put fires out -- letting them burn can be a better management plan if there's no threat to property and can help prevent larger fires from occurring later on.
Gue has traveled across the country over his 14-year career to fight fires in other states when conditions at home allow. One of the most difficult parts of being a wildland firefighter is having to be away from home and family so much, Gue told HuffPost. Still, he said, “There is no better feeling than jumping on a helicopter and flying into some of the most beautiful country on the planet to do a job you love.”
He also told HuffPost that firefighters are a great group of people. “All the firefighters I know have fun at their jobs… Most crewmembers build close bonds and become lifelong friends.” He also said firefighting “draws individuals that love the outdoors and have a spirit of service.”
To prepare for wildfires near you, Gue recommends managing potential fuels around your property. “Have a plan in place if a wildfire starts in your area,” Gue said, “so you know where to go and what to do.”
The northwest has been particularly hard hit this season. Oregon and Washington account for almost half of the total acres burned, while the normally hard-hit rocky mountains and southwest have stayed relatively quiet. Washington suffered the largest fire in the state’s history last month, and state and federal agencies are quickly burning through their dedicated wildfire budgets.
Check out the pictures below for a closer look at the wildland firefighters keeping us safe this summer. Are you a firefighter who has a picture we didn't find? Share it with us using #huffpostfirefighters.