The Smokey Generation: Wildland Fire Oral History Project

The Smokey Generation: Wildland Fire Oral History Project

09 December 2015

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USA– Wildland firefighting is a unique occupation, very different from structural firefighting and any other job, actually. It is a niche line of work, an amalgam of professional athlete and warfighter. Few people outside of the relatively small pool of those who have experienced it have a good understanding of how wildland firefighters live and work — the frequent or constant travel, the extreme physical demands over an extended time, the camaraderie of the crews, the feeling of accomplishment, and the occasional adrenaline rush.

These folks have stories to tell. Some of them are fun and entertaining, and many are embedded with lessons that can help educate those just beginning their careers. It would be a shame to allow their hard earned knowledge to fade away.

Betheny Hannah has embarked on a project to preserve some of those memories and lessons, creating The Smokey Generation, a collection of video interviews with firefighters. Having worked as a hotshot firefighter for six years and a chain saw instructor, she knows the jargon and what questions to ask. On her website, which was designed as part of her Master’s thesis project, and on Vimeo, she has posted interviews with dozens of firefighters. Most of the individual interviews have been broken down into several short recordings, each on a singular topic, lasting just a few minutes so it can be a little overwhelming when browsing through over 250 of them on Vimeo. On her website they can be sorted by person and topic.

This summer Ms. Hannah initiated a Kickstarter project to raise funds to attend and interview some of the 900 attendees at the smokejumper reunion in Missoula.

Several videos are posted below. The first was produced by Stihl, the chain saw folks, in which she is featured as part of the company’s Real People campaign. The rest are from The Smokey Generation. Beginning with the second, the descriptions are below the video.

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