Scenes from the fireline

Caitlin Chinn's photos capture life as a wildland firefighter
Caitlin Chinn
Two firefighters hang from ropes connected to a helicopter in flight
“Rappelling is good for heavily timbered or steep fires where landing the helicopter is impossible. It’s fun. It only lasts a few seconds – the ropes are 250 feet long and we go pretty fast. It’s a lot of training and grit for 30 seconds of thrill."
a fire fighter holds a chainsaw as he watches underbrush go up in flames
“We are not exactly what people picture when they think of the crisp firefighter in the red truck,” Chinn says. “We’re gross. Vulgar. Gritty. Opinionated. Ultra-athletic. Disgusting humor. However, the bonds are incredibly deep and last lifetimes."

Learn more about wildland fires in "Megafire"

Caitlin Chinn, ’13, B.A., recreation, became a wildland firefighter as a student to pay her way through Western. Though she had never so much as camped before, she’s now a seven-year veteran of wildland firefighting with the U.S. Forest Service and plans to “fight fire until my heart says no more,” she says. “I'm in nursing school but that's not a conclusive end for me. I'm heading back to Idaho this June for my eighth season.”

Click on the images to read more about life as a wildland fire fighter, or tag along on Chinn’s next firefighting season on her Instagram feed @caitlinchinn.

A view out the windshield of a helicopter of the Tetons, with a smoky haze in the distance.
After several years working with a hotshot crew in Oregon, Chinn is now a member of a helirappeller team based in Idaho. Here is her view above Grand Teton National Park.
A thick blanket of smoke appears to float over a grassy hillside.
Chinn took this photo of heavy smoke lurking over the hillside in July 2014. “Our safety is more important than any tree, any acre, any structure, any private property, and always will be."
a view out a truck windshield through the smoky haze
"The gist (of wildland firefighting) is: You put a line around the fire -- handline, dozer line, roads, rivers, whatever -- and hold that line with whatever methods you've got, mainly just brute ground labor.

Photos by Caitlin Chinn, '13