Another summer, another record-breaking wildfire season. From California to Colorado, British Columbia to the Arctic Circle, total acreage burned records have been eclipsed yet again, in what’s become a common theme. Each year the length of wildfire season, the number of large fires, and the area burned all seem to grow. The causes — climate change and extreme fire suppression, among others — are debatable. Yet, what comes after a wildfire starts is almost always the same: wildland firefighters set out to contain the blaze. After another record year in California, ExpertVoice spoke with Eastern Sierra-based expert, wildland firefighter, photographer and all around badass, Gregg Boydston.
ExpertVoice: Pretty broad question but, how did you get to where you are now?
Gregg Boydston: I was born and raised in Southern California but have always had a real passion for the mountains and the outdoors. I love being creative and was able to find enough of that while I worked for Apple for about 4 years but I got to the point where work really was just that, work. I decided that I wanted to do something I really enjoyed so I went back to school, got a degree in fire science and finished my emergency medical technician course. After living out of a tent in the woods of Oregon as an on-call firefighter and multiple applications, I was able to land a wild land firefighter position in the Klamath National Forest. I then became a Hotshot Firefighter for the US Forest Service in the Inyo Forest for 7 years and plan to finish my career in the municipal fire department side of things.
EV: What fueled your inspiration to begin shooting photography along with your hotshot gig?
GB: I honestly just wanted to share what we did out there. When people think fire, they usually think the big red trucks side of things. So my goal was to let people in on the wildland side of things. Eventually, through my photography I’ve been able to create some awesome partnerships. I’ve produced content for Edgevale, Pelican, Galls, Gerber, LifeProof, Mountain Standard, and The Outbound. I’ve also built a strong following on my Instagram channel (@greggboydston). It’s awesome to share my work, passions and experiences as life as a wildland firefighter with so many people.
EV: What’s your favorite place to shoot?
GB: I love shooting in the Eastern Sierra where I live, but I also really enjoy the desert. I honestly haven’t had an opportunity to travel much, but am always eager to see new places.
EV: What do you pack with you when you’re out on a fire assignment?
BG: The list is long but the things I have with me every time are – GPS unit; two-way radio; first aid kit; 6 quarts of water; 25 pound chainsaw with spare chain and parts; MREs; Gatorade, Emergen-C and instant coffee packets; hand tools like shovels, picks, Pulaski, McLeod, and tool files; a weather kit; some colored flagging; fiber tape; my GoPro; and my iPhone with Lifeproof case.
EV: When you get off a fire line what’s the first thing you reach for?
BG: Easy, a cold Coors Banquet.
EV: And what does being an expert mean to you?
BG: For me, being an expert means, survival. Each day when I’m out in the field I rely on the my training and the training of my fellow Hotshots. If we weren’t all experts it would be that much more dangerous. When it comes to being a product expert, it means having enough hands-on experience and product knowledge to really know what I’m talking about. Whether it’s my work gloves, my chainsaw, my underwear or even my socks — I need to know what I use is going to hold up to the challenges I face. Being an expert means knowing that my recommendation is built on experience.
Gregg was born and raised in Riverside, California. With the eagerness to be in the mountains, he made the move to the Eastern Sierra where he can step out of his home and explore the mountains, rivers, and deserts of California. When he’s not fighting wildfires for the U.S. Forest Service, or traveling and camping, he’s out and about exploring the Eastern Sierra with a camera, cooler, and positive attitude. Take a look at Gregg’s ExpertVoice profile here and follow along with Gregg’s many adventures on Instagram @GreggBoydston or on his website, greggboydston.com.