Posted by on July 7, 2016

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Photo credit: Entiat Hotshots

Have you ever wondered what kind of person makes the ideal Hotshot?  Well,, a wildland fire oral history and didgital storytelling website, decided to explore just that.  The Smokey Generation is a passion project founded by Bethany Hannah in 2014 as part of her thesis project for her Master of Arts degree.  In continuing to expand The Smokey Generation, Bethany’s goal is to collect and share stories from wildland firefighters throughout the country so that we can preserve the history and culture of the wildland firefighting industry and stimulate discussion about wildland fire itself.  While gathering interviews, Bethany’s taken the time to ask a few Hotshots this question: “What are the characteristics of the ideal Hotshot?”  Here are a few of the responses:


Interested in hearing more about The Smokey Generation?

The Smokey Generation is a website dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing the stories and oral history of wildland fire.  

The story of wildland fire is more than what’s told on the evening news. Many people only experience wildland fire through the media or when their homes or properties are affected, but wildland fire deserves to be given context outside of these emergencies. By sharing the stories of wildland fire professionals, we’re able to educate ourselves about the broader reality of wildland fire. The Smokey Generation captures wildland firefighters talking about their experiences, describing close calls, showcasing their camaraderie, and exploring their various histories—with a view towards their shared future. The stories ignite the imagination, provide intriguing perspective, and showcase the fascinating culture of the industry.

Storytelling and oral history are traditions as old as civilization itself and the stories in this collections are, and will remain, available to the public, scholars, and current/future generations of wildland firefighters for years to come. To do this, interviews are filmed, edited into consumable pieces, and presented in a format perfectly suited to the internet medium.  At the click of a button, folks around the globe can access engaging, approachable segments and participate in the greater narrative of wildland fire.

There are several parts to this project:

  • Collecting, preserving, and sharing oral histories of wildland firefighters (and those impacted by wildland fire).  Bethany’s goal is to continue to capture interviews from wildland firefighters in all stages of their careers.  She’s particularly motivated to collect and preserve stories from retired Superintendents and fire managers, whose institutional knowledge and narratives could impact the generation of firefighters coming up through the ranks today.  Eventually, she’d also like to capture stories from people affected by fire in order to offer a broad range of perspectives.
  • Creating context around wildland fire through digital storytelling methods.  Many people only experience wildland fire through the media or when their homes or properties are affected.  But wildland fire deserves to be given context outside of “emergencies” and experienced in ways that people can relate to – through storytelling and interaction.  Bethany has created this website to provide some context, ignite imagination, and allow you to choose how you’d like to hear the stories she’s collected.
  • Exploring the language we use to describe fire in the environment.  Bethany believes that words have meanings that go far beyond their definitions; she is interested in exploring how we describe fire’s role in the environment because she believes our conversations about fire help form the character of  fire.  She believes that if we understand the language used by practitioners (and the resulting views and meanings that are pushed forward), then we can help shape and/or re-shape the public discourse around fire – ultimately enabling fire managers to better use fire to restore our ecosystems to a healthier state.
  • Sharing the wildland firefighting culture and community.  Bethany spent seven years in the operational side of wildland fire and has been supporting wildland firefighters through her business for eight years.  She was immersed in the wildland firefighting culture during some of her most transformative years (starting as a twenty-year-old rookie Hotshot) and firmly believes that the fire culture should be preserved and treasured – in all it’s dirt and glory.

You can checkout the page here:

Visit The Smokey Generation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


Posted in: Hotshotting
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