Families of firefighters fight their own battles

Faces behind the people on the firelines

Families and friends of firefighters

REDMOND, Ore. - With all this smoke and talk of fire, it might seem like fires are worse than ever. But for the families of firefighters, it's just another season.

It's easy to focus on the fire itself, and forget about the faces behind it.

In particular, the families, waiting for their firefighter to come home.

Catie Starr is the mother of two wildland firefighters.

"My two older sons, my older and my middle sons, fight fires. The oldest is 31, the younger is 29," Starr said.

And even though the comfort level may change, concern never goes away.

"I just ask that they check in, and they text me ;mom, all's well I'm doing okay,' and then to get that phone call, to actually hear their voices," Starr said.

Being friend or family to a wildland firefighter means never knowing what to expect.

Fire season usually kicks off in May, but because no one can predict when or where these fires will start, you never know how long your loved one will be gone.

For Heather Koch, the wife of a smokejumper, a go-with-the-flow attitude is necessary.

"That depends from project to fire to whatever they need him, it could be two weeks could be a month, you don't know," she said. "Depends on what they need them for, it could be a short time, could be two days, or could be more." 

But both mother and wife say understanding and support are key.

"You have to accept the fact that they're going to be gone for the summers, they have a risky job," Koch said.

"But they are very safe. I've seen him jump, I've seen their procedures and I feel very comfortable, because I trust him, and I think it's a communication factor and a trust factor," she said.

Starr echoed that sentiment.

"My sons were trained by experts, and if they do that and if they have the passion, let them go out on a fire, if they don't like it they won't like it, but if they do, support them. Whenever my boys leave, be safe, be smart, and stay strong," she said.

Both women said the wildland firefighting community in Central Oregon is incredibly supportive and lots of resources are available to the family and friends of firefighters.

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