SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) He’s not from Utah, but his job is to protect the state. In this week’s Behind the Badge story, Don Hudson introduces us to a Utah wildland firefighter whose story really begins more than seven thousand miles away.
“It’s very hard.” Musa Abdallah is talking about living in a refugee camp in Egypt.
DON: What was life like there?
MUSA: “You don’t know where you’re going to be. You don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow.”
After spending two years there, he got a plane for the first time in his life.
“I didn’t get to sleep cause I was scared.”
Then he saw snow for the first time when he landed in Utah in December 2013.
DON: What was it like the first time you touched the snow?
MUSA: “It’s scary. It’s cold and its water. Kind of weird.”
He was 19 years old in a strange place and couldn’t speak English.
“I call my mom and say I can’t stay here. I am going to come back home.”
Fortunately, his mother persuaded him to stay and shortly after that he found the job corps and went off to be trained as a wildland firefighter. And for the past five years, he has been on the front lines helping to control and contain fires in Utah.
“It’s really hard to stay in the smoke and breathe in. It’s really hard to breathe into it.”
The 26-year-old says he’s had a few close calls.
“We heard on the radio, ‘Hey, guys just get out of there. Get out of there.’ And we just run.” And he says this past fire season was intense for him and his hotshot team.
“It’s a lot of fire. A lot of crazy – especially the Pole Creek Fire.” The Pole Creek Fire scorched 100-thousand acres in September and October. And when that was contained – they went to California to help out there. “We got like 1300 hours of overtime.”
Musa loves the work and is now training with local fire departments hoping to eventually land a firefighting job, here in the city he has come to love.
“This is my home.”
The wildland fire fighting season is about six months. Fourteen days on and two days off for six months. In the offseason, Musa volunteers at the refugee center helping translate and giving people rides.
And we learned he is known for his ability to do 100 pushups anytime – anywhere. So, Musa and I had a push-up competition during their interview. Well, it wasn’t much of a contest, as you can see by watching the web extra video here.
To nominate a first responder for a future Behind the Badge story – https://www.abc4.com/badge