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Fighting Wildland Fire for the Next Generation


(fire roaring) – My name is Johnny Walker. I’m born and raised in
southern Mississippi. I work here on the Shawnee National Forest as a senior firefighter. I’ve been in the Forest
Service since I was 19, and I think it’s sort of
shaped me and molded me into the man that I am now, because of the individuals around me. Just coming from poverty, and just wanting to get out of that situation to better myself, that’s what pushed me to want to do that. I got my start in Job Corps actually. My crew boss at the time,
he’d seen something in me, and I didn’t know much about fire, but I was willing to try
it out and here I am now. You get to travel and see the world, I’m a little country boy. Never thought I’d be fighting fire or hiking mountains and
dealing with people, and that was always the
biggest thing for me, just not wanting to get
out and do anything, ’cause I was always closed in. One of the biggest
challenges, I would say, being able to get up in front
of a group of individuals and speak something that I’ve
learned to a group of people that don’t know anything about it. I’m learning having to
put down the physical side and step into more of a management role, and that’s kind of difficult for me, ’cause I love to work. I love to get out there and get dirty, but there’s always a time for that, but there’s also a time to step back and kind of watch and look
out for the big picture. Just like today, we got a
prescribed burn we got to go to, but that’s the most rewarding
thing, being able to do that, and then when we do get
an out-of-control fire, going to these places and
helping put out the fire, then just the residents alone, just seeing their happy faces, and saving their town and all the thanks. We don’t necessarily do that for that, but that’s a rewarding thing, also. I would say the fire
world itself is a family. There’s individuals that I have seen probably like two or three years ago. They’re here today, and
it’s just picking up like right from where we left off. I just recently had a child,
and thinking about right now, like the things that I’m doing in my job to better myself as an
individual and provide for her, and I think this job does just that. At the same time, I’m
doing something for her, and her generation and
generations after that.

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