SAN ANTONIO – Two locals are sharing their experience fighting wildfires on the West Coast and hoping to inspire others to go out and help.
Hanna Randle, a St. Mary’s University student, is one of several people who traveled to Arizona and Idaho to fight wildfires over the summer. She recently returned to San Antonio to continue her classes.
“Physically, it is really hard, but I think it is more of a mental thing with yourself on how far you can push yourself,” Randle said. “It just feels so good to directly help not only people but the animals.”
Randle said the entire concept of being a wildland firefighter is a rewarding experience. Taylor Johnson, Randle’s best friend and forestry technician wildland firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service, got her interested in the field.
“Originally, I was in St. Mary’s University, and I was on track to be in the Army as an officer, but once I came out here and started doing fire. I fell in love with it,” Johnson said.
Johnson is currently in California, and because of a lack of resources and qualified people, his schedule consists of 16-hour shifts. He also works 21 days on and two days off.
“It is very exhausting, but it is all worth it,” Johnson said. “Flying a helicopter, landing in a fire and putting it out with my friends is pretty rewarding. It is a lot of fun.”
Johnson said the impact of the destruction can be emotional.
“Seeing these beautiful natural places burn in ways they are not meant to burn is sad,” Johnson said. “Seeing the properties get destroyed -- all of that is very sad.”
Randle stressed the need for help is there because wildfires are getting more frequent.
“It makes me sad that it is not talked about more and that more people don’t know how to do it or how to even get into it,” Randle said.
“In the local volunteer fire department, there are a lot of older people, so it would be helpful if younger people could help them out,” Johnson said.
“Get out there and help,” Randle said. “Everyone needs your help. It is not enough to make a post on Instagram. You need to go out, and you need to something.”
Johnson said there are several ways to help if you are interested: