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This firefighter’s ready at the drop of a match

UVSC student leads new 20-person wildfire team

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LINDON — To some, it might seem that Brad Chandler has an odd idea of what's fun and exciting.

Take, for example, the time a 10-foot wall of flame rolled over him like an ocean wave.

Or when he was chased off a mountain by a blaze that burned 15,000 acres in 24 hours.

Or when he dug fire lines up steep slopes to the point of exhaustion.

Or slept in ashes to keep warm.

Chandler has been there, done that. And he's not about to give it up.

"I always liked hiking, camping and stuff. I'm a risk taker," he says. "I'll do just about anything."

There have been a few times, however, that have caused some jitters.

Once, he recalled, the wind picked up and was pushing a fire toward a herd of cattle. He was on one side and two other firefighters were on the other.

"The wind was blowing the fire in my face. I thought I could jump over it but it was still burning inside so I had to run through it. It was kind of spooky."

Another time, at a wildfire in the Springville area, bulldozers came through after the firefighters had burned their last fire break and were out of options.

"It was like the cavalry showing up," Chandler said. "Just knowing we were able to save people's homes was a huge triumph."

The Utah Valley State College student fought the Oakhills Fire above Alpine in 2000 and the two major hillside fires in Utah County in 2001.

He's fought fires in Big Cottonwood and Provo Canyon.

This summer he'll be the squad boss on Utah County's first 20-person firefighting unit.

"Basically, they can call us and expect us to drop everything and get there now."

Chandler enjoys feeling like he contributes to the community, even though firefighting is dangerous.

And he likes the camaraderie that comes from working with people who have to depend on each other to survive.

"I want to transfer to BYU (and) get a degree doing genealogical research in the winter so I can keep fighting fires in the summers," he said.

E-MAIL: haddoc@desnews.com