Courtesy Cherokee Nation
Cherokee Nation Fire Dancers, ready to deploy. Front row: Lacey Crawford, D.Y. Wolf and John Campbell. Back row: William St. Clair, Henry McClain, Bill Wacoche, Danny Maritt, Randy Studie, Koda Teehee, Michael Scott, David Collins and Standingbear Teehee.

Cherokee Fire Dancers Leap Into Northern California Blazes

July 25, 2013

The Cherokee Nation has sent its elite squad of firefighters to Oregon to help fight wildfires in northern California.

The dozen-member team, the Cherokee Fire Dancers, deployed to the Northwestern state on Tuesday July 23 to “work 16-hour days, hiking up to seven miles per day to cut down timber to create fire breaks to help battle the flames,” the tribe said in a statement.

“It’s a thrill watching a fire as it’s contained and know you’ve helped,” said Danny Maritt, of Tahlequah, who has been a Fire Dancer for 23 years, in the tribe’s statement. “We’re glad we’re out there making a difference.”

Fire Dancers are on call from the U.S. Forestry Department, the tribe said. Their last mission was assisting in cleanup efforts from Superstorm Sandy in New Jersey.

The Fire Dancers have traveled back and forth across the United States since 1988 to help suppress wildfires, earning “an outstanding reputation and the respect of wildland management agencies throughout the United States,” the tribe’s website says.

Information on specific fires that the Cherokee team will help with was not available, but there were several fires burning in northern California earlier in the week. Many have been contained, but others, such as the Aspen fire, were still being suppressed. That was at 2,000 acres in hard-to-access territory in the High Sierra Ranger District of the Sierra National Forest, where it was discovered burning on July 23, according to Inciweb. As of late morning on July 25, the fire had burned about 2,000 acres and remained active.

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