, Muskogee, OK

July 25, 2013

Cherokee Nation Fire Dancers help battle California wildfires

— TAHLEQUAH — A dozen Cherokee Nation Fire Dancers were deployed to Oregon this week to help fight wildfires in northern California, a media release states.

The Fire Dancers will work 16-hour days, hiking up to seven miles per day to cut down timber to create fire breaks to help battle the flames.

“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. “We’re glad we’re out there making a difference.”

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 do fire training once a year.

They are called up by the U.S. Forestry Department. The Fire Dancers last mission was Hurricane Sandy cleanup in New Jersey.