A team of Colorado wildland firefighters is headed to the rugged terrain of Alaska this year because of their reputation as some of the best in the West.
The Durango Herald reports firefighters being sent to Alaska have to prove they can carry 90 pounds of gear up a mountain and run 10 miles before they can be recommended by their supervisors to join the Alaska Fire Service smokejumper and hot-shot crews.
Eric Elliott, of the Chena Interagency Hotshot Crew, told the Herald:
“It’s just kind of the Durango culture. Since we were kids, almost everyone I knew was always hiking around, camping and basically firefighting without the fire. Just screwing around, chopping trees down – it comes naturally. We grew up at a high elevation and are pretty active, so it wasn’t a far jump.”
A Bureau of Land Management officials says the annual trip to Alaska began a decade ago after word spread about the ability of the Colorado firefighters to cut firebreaks, deal with wild animals and cope with rapidly changing conditions.