Walking A Mile in a Firefighter's Shoes -- What It's Like in This Heat

FINLEY, WA. -- The Les Blair Fire burned nearly 3,000 acres over the weekend outside Finley. 

Firefighters still fighting that fire are dealing with triple digit temperatures. 

The view you're looking at is what firefighters see when battling a wildfire. Unfortunately you're not seeing a real firefighter in action, just a reporter pretending to be one.

"What are you guys going to have me doing here?" I asked. 

"We're going to have you demonstrating what firefighters go through with the gear they're wearing while digging a fire break," Matt Gutzmer with the Benton County Fire District 1 said. 


Just days ago, Benton County Firefighters were digging real fire breaks that helped save this deck. I had trouble breathing in some of the dust after just 15 minutes of digging about a foot wide break. I was feeling pretty hot too, even without flames bearing down on me or smoke filling the air. 

"Long sleeves, pants, shirt under your shirt, it gets hot," Gutzmer said. 

After just 30 minutes of digging only 15 yards, I was already spent. A real firefighter would just be getting warmed up. 

"On initial attack any firefighter can be out for 24 to 36 hours on the line," Gutzmer said. "Once initial attack is over we try to keep it to 12 to 14 hour shifts. That's a long time. it is. It takes a toll on the body, especially in this heat."

So 45 minutes later, my demonstration was done. The real question, how did I do? 

"So how my technique out there?" I asked. 

"It was pretty good," Gutzmer said. "We'll work on your training but I think it will stop the fire."

Thankfully they have the real experts to take on the flames. 

I can tell you that I don't think I'll have any firefighting experience in my future. But I definitely have a new appreciation for what firefighters do on a daily basis. 

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