(L to R) Front Row: Koda Teehee; Henry McClain; Adam Foutch; Michael Hunter; Gavin White; Curtis Wilson. Second Row: Lacey Crawford; Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Chris Brewster. Third Row: Fire Dancer Supervisor David Comingdeer, James Tillison, Brian Locust, Billy Wacoche, David Collins, Danny Maritt, Derrick Smith, Standingbear Teehee and Jay Fields. Not Pictured: Aaron Raney, Josh Bates and John Campbell.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Twenty Cherokee Nation Fire Dancers were deployed Wednesday to help fight wildfires in California.
The Fire Dancers will work up to 16-hour shifts daily doing initial attacks to suppress further unmanned fires from breaking out.
“The Cherokee Fire Dancers is one of the most respected and highly trained American Indian firefighter units in the country. These brave men and women are answering the emergency call and going to California to help save homes and protect lives,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “I have no doubt our Cherokee firefighters will do invaluable work as they battle the wildfires. We pray for their safe travel and swift return to Oklahoma.”
According to the Fire Dancers Supervisor David Comingdeer, this is the first time in years, if ever, that all Fire Dancers on his crew have been deployed at once. Five Fire Dancers left earlier this month and are still fighting fires in California.
“This has been an unprecedented fire season with volatile wildfires, and these Fire Dancers are going right into the heart of it,” Comingdeer said. “The Cherokee Fire Dancers do this job because they believe in protecting the land and have been doing it since 1988 with a perfect safety record.”
To qualify as a Cherokee Fire Dancer requires a strength test of carrying 45 pounds while walking three miles within a 45-minute period. The Fire Dancers also conduct fire training once a year.
The group is called up by the U.S. Forestry Department. The Fire Dancers helped fight fires in Washington on 260,000 acres in July, battled blazes in California last summer and also helped with Hurricane Sandy cleanup in New Jersey.
Cherokee Nation News Release
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