On the Front Lines Fighting Forest Fires with @caitlinchinn
“Getting stalked by cougars and run-ins with pissed off bears … Feeling the earth BOOM when a 700-year-old tree that was burning out from the roots cracked and hit the ground not even 100 feet away … Getting drenched with water from rogue bucket drops, and splattered with red retardant from air tankers.”
In five years of fighting forest fires, three of them as a member of an elite 20-person Hotshot crew based in Northeast Oregon, Caitlin Chinn (@caitlinchinn) has had her share of harrowing experiences. For Caitlin, who grew up outside of Seattle, a grueling and dangerous job was not preordained. “I overcame way more difficult social obstacles to become a firefighter than physical ones,” she says. But a life of adventure, where work and play are largely indistinguishable, is exactly what she sought out.
The La Grande Hotshots’ season begins May 18, and kicks off with an 80-hour session of training and physical endurance tests. Then, they wait. “The early-season fires are typically in the Southwest or Alaska, so we’ll probably be headed there first,” Caitlin says.
“I take pictures from places many people don’t get to see and provide my own perspective,” says Caitlin, who emphatically rejects labels people might ascribe to her. “I am just an ordinary person with an extraordinary part-time job. If I happen to inspire people, great!”