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Cherokee Hotshots Team describe dangers battling wildfires

By Laura Halm
Published On: Jul 01 2013 04:48:12 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 02 2013 08:26:55 PM CDT

We caught up with the Cherokee Hotshots Team in Unicoi County, Tennessee to learn more about their on-the-job dangers.

UNICOI COUNTY, Tenn. -

We caught up with the Cherokee Hotshots Team in Unicoi County, Tennessee to learn more about their on-the-job dangers.

When a forest fire gets out of control, the Cherokee Hotshots Team is one of the first to battle the flames.

Forest Supervisor Guy Street says it's simply tragic to hear about the loss of fellow firefighters in Arizona. "Most of us will be wondering which one on the crew we knew personally because it's kind of a small world," added Street.

That's because his crew is sent all across the country to save lives. Twenty men and women make up the Cherokee Hotshots Team.

We learned they're not only specialists in fighting rapid wildfires at the ground level, they're ready to go at all times. "They keep their trucks packed and all their necessary things for fighting fires. When we get the call they have two hours from the time they arrive here at the station to go out the gate," added Street.

This crew is self-sufficient, meaning they carry enough food and water to last at least two days, a first aid kit, and a fire shelter which a firefighter can crawl into if there's no other way to escape the oncoming flames.

Thomas Jenkins was on the team for three fire seasons. He says on-the-job dangers ranged from the environment to people stopping to take pictures. To stay safe, Jenkins says he relied on fellow firefighters. "You have to trust your teammates to watch your back," he told us.

We learned the Cherokee Hotshots Team trains year-round. With every fire they plan escape routes, but there's always uneasiness when facing the flames. "It's nature at its worst and you can't control it. You just kind of hope to contain it," added Jenkins.

The Cherokee Hotshots Team tells us they are not expecting a call to help fight the wildfire in Arizona.