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Fire season ends for student firefighters

Many say the fire season is far from over, but the Eastern Idaho Interagency Fire Center is losing about 20 crew members to the start of the school year.

Fire officials aren’t too concerned. They said it’s a common summer job for students, so they plan ahead. But they also said many of the men and women are tired from a very active season, so having to pick up the slack will be a little tougher than year’s past.

Jared Hergesheimer’s firefighting days are coming to an end.

“My last day is Friday and I head back to school Saturday,” said Hergesheimer.

But the rising junior at Boise State isn’t the only one. Nineteen others among this year’s 146 firefighters are also students.

“So when we set up and organize trucks at the beginning of the year, we plan to lose one to two per truck,” said engine captain Austin Catlin.

Catlin said it’s been the busiest fire season he can remember since 2007. Losing crew members, he said, means losing some productivity and adjusting roles on the truck.

“The biggest worry we have is adding more work on some folks that may already be showing signs of that cumulative fatigue,” said Catlin.

“It’s not a glory job like everyone thinks it is,” said Hergesheimer. “It’s really hard.”

Still, Hergesheimer said he’s learned a lot and plans to come back again next summer.

“It keeps me busy and I love the adrenaline rush it gives you,” he said.

It’s a rush Catlin can’t get enough of, even after 11 years. He started as a college student, like Hergesheimer, and at the end of summer in 2006, realized it was time to change his major on the drive back to Utah State.

“I looked out in the desert, saw a cloud of fire and wished I was on the fire rather than heading to school,” said Catlin.

Catlin said students are a great work force. He said even though they’re leaving, there are still plenty of firefighters to finish out the season.

The Eastern Idaho Interagency Fire Center said fire activity is expected to be average to above average through October.

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