Queensbury firefighter recounts time fighting wildfires

Queensbury, N.Y. — Queensbury native Rob Porter has a different perspective on the wildfires in California, a first hand one. Porter just returned from a month-long deployment to Northern California with the Montrose Hellfighters, a contract wildland firefighting group based in Colorado. 

Being in Northern California for a month meant that Porter had to leave his family behind in Queensbury, 3,000 miles away. Being away from his family was the hardest part for Porter. 

“Honestly, everything sucks about it, it’s tough, you’re going to miss things, holidays, birthdays, big events. Like the first day of school I missed, last year, I missed my son’s second birthday, so that was tough,” Porter said. 

Porter explained that the wildfires created a scene unlike anything he had seen before.

“It’s very hazy, you don’t really see much of the sun most of the day, you just see the smoke in the sky. It’s basically raining ash most of the day,” Porter said.

The constant battle to control the fire meant that Porter and his crew were working on a grueling 12-hour schedule. 

“Days started at 6 AM, you would get your lunch and breakfast. It would typically be a 12-hour day for the most part because you would get off the line at 7:30 at night and head back in. Then there were night shifts. There could be times where you were stuck overnight, but luckily that has never happened to me,” Porter said.

For now, Porter goes about his daily life, spending time with his family and volunteering as a firefighter with the South Queensbury Volunteer Fire Company, waiting for the next time he is called to help extinguish a devastating wildfire.