These are the hotshot firefighters leading attacks against California wildfires. And they're quitting
Updated 12:36 PM ET, Sat June 26, 2021
The fire tornado, which obliterated entire neighborhoods in Redding, California, during the massive Carr Fire, still haunts former hotshot supervisor Aaron Humphrey. He says that terrifying moment forever changed his outlook.
"You are in a fog and expecting death or disaster around every corner ... It collectively killed my hotshot spirit," Humphrey, 44, said of the fire tornado.
"Hump," as fellow firefighters and friends call him, supervised hotshot crews from the US Forest Service on blister-inducing hikes to dig out fire lines, hack down trees and set blazes to fight advancing flames. Hotshot crews of 20 to 22 people spearhead fire attacks, and it's not uncommon for them to hike 10 miles daily with fire gear packs that can weigh up to 45 pounds.
Hump rose up from a seasonal rookie firefighter to the prestigious position of supervisor of the Eldorado Hotshots. He called it the "best job in the world."
But he quit a year ago.
After 25 years, Hump says he became just the latest mentally fried, underpaid hotshot veteran to leave, at a time when California wildfires are at their worst.