CALIFORNIA, USA — After leaving the Marines, Blake Toth, a Westbrook native, hasn't stopped touring. Toth strapped on his boots and took a three-day, 170-mile, stroll from Montpelier, Vermont to Portland, Maine in 2018 to raise funds for Honor Flight New England, an organization that sends veterans to Washington D.C. to see war memorials, free of charge.
Now, Toth is on another flight mission, he fights wildland fires for the United States Forest Service. He is known as a sawyer, or chainsaw operator, for a helicopter attack team based out of Southern California.
His crew is considered a national asset, which in short means that they can potentially fly to any part of the country, at the drop of a hard hat.
“It’s not the fires you see on the news. It’s not all the big fires, it’s the small ones," said Toth. "Within 15-minutes we get the call and we are off of the ground. And we are fighting that fire.”
Although Toth says they have primarily stayed in Northern and Southern California, Oregon, and Nevada, he expects to return to the top part of the Golden State soon.
Toth is recruiting more veterans to get on the fire line. He started the Veterans in Fire Instagram account to share digital stories of former warriors now waging a different battle. Toth says he will be on an upcoming Anchor Point Podcast talking about his efforts.
As wildfires appear to keep getting larger in size, there is a way to help out, even if you are in Maine. Toth says you can do your part by making good decisions with fire, like putting out your campfires and listening to forest rangers.
If you are looking to donate, he recommends supporting The Wildland Firefighter Association, an organization that benefits families of fallen or injured wildland firefighters.