When wildfires threaten forests, firefighter Sam Jewett cranks up his bulldozer to keep them contained.
Q. how does a 15,000-pound bulldozer put out forest fires?
A. A bulldozer is handy for plowing fire lines, which are strips of dirt surrounding a fire. Fires can’t burn dirt, so the lines keep fires contained.
Q. When do forest fires happen?
A. They occur at any time, but I stick close to my radio and dozer from October until green-up in late April.
Q. What do you do when you aren’t fighting fires?
A. I work as a forester, helping make sure forests provide homes for wildlife, places for people to camp and hunt, and a healthy supply of trees to make things such as lumber.
Q. What’s the best part of your job?
A. When the fire’s out. Fighting fires is hot, smokey and dangerous. But after the last ember’s doused, there are always good stories to tell. Plus, it makes me feel good to protect thousands of trees and animals.
Q. What’s the worst part?
A. Working at night keeps me on my toes. In the dark, you have to pay extra close attention to where you’re driving the dozer. Sucking smoke isn’t fun, either.
Q. Ever been scared while fighting a fire?
A. Sometimes. The Ozarks are full of steep, gnarly hillsides where it’s easy to get a dozer stuck— especially when it’s dark and smokey. And, being stuck is the last thing you want when a fire is burning toward you.
Nichole LeClair Terrill