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If you have ever been close to a forest fire, you would give everything to thank firefighters.

We saw a wildfire erupt in southern Utah a couple of summers ago, and watched in horror as it raced down a hillside, consuming everything in its wake.  The smoke was so thick we couldn’t see, and the oxygen was choked from our lungs.

Flames licked the landscape like molten lava, destroying old forest and threatening farms.  The fire appeared to leap across treetops and it seemed unstoppable.

And then, the sirens.  I cried with relief when I heard them, the sound was that powerful.  I tear up now, just thinking of that moment between helplessness and hope.

We learned later firefighters were able to contain that blaze, and no lives were lost.

Living in California and Nevada, we often had higher air pollution counts from California wildfires, and sometimes, after a day of hiking in cool forests, we could see the outline of a blaze on the horizon.

But we were never so close as that wildfire in Utah, and now, three summers later, I can still remember the odor of that choking smoke.

Gratitude for selflessness and bravery of every single firefighter

Watching the news about Colorado’s fires, I give thanks for every firefighter risking his or her life to protect lives and save forests.  I give thanks for the strength it takes to walk into a fire zone and work in hazardous, hot, debilitating conditions.

I cannot imagine the mental courage it takes to be a firefighter.  I only know I am thankful for their work, in the woods and in our communities.  We all benefit from the selflessness and bravery of firefighters, at home and in the wilderness.