When Nathaniel Valenti, 20, missed his first day of classes at Marymount University this year, he had a good excuse — he was fighting wildfires.
The junior criminal justice major from Dover, Delaware, spent 14 days as a part-time federal employee, getting close to the big fires that have been raging in the west all summer. One fire he helped to contain had burned 8,700 acres near Toston, Montana.
“The first night we were holding the line and there were trees torching 20 or 30 feet away from me,” Valenti said. “That’s when the entire tree just goes up in flames, with really high flames and intense heat.”
That became a normal sight for him.
After completing a 40-hour firefighting course at West Virginia University last summer, Valenti spent the end of this summer enduring thick smoke and 90-degree weather while in firefighting gear, including a helmet, goggles and fire-retardant clothing.
Valenti had no firefighting experience before this summer, but he did have a role model in the profession. His father, Michael Valenti, is the state forester of Delaware and has been fighting fires in the western states most summers since 1998. This summer, the younger Valenti went with his dad, who was the chief of their 20-man crew.
“I was very happy the planets aligned so that we could do this together,” the elder Valenti said.
The group slept in tents as far as 15 miles from the flames, to avoid the smoke. Each morning they drove as close as they could before hiking to the fire lines. They didn’t leave the fireground all day, so everyone, including rookie Valenti, carried 25-pound packs that included an emergency fire shelter, food and more than a gallon of water.
“Once you go out for the day, you can’t get water anywhere else,” Valenti said. “So in addition to what you carry, you drink a lot in the morning and in the evening.”
Although he was new to firefighting, Valenti is not new to camping and being outdoors. He has gone on extended 14-day backpacking and trips with his Boy Scout troops. Valenti, his three brothers and father are all Eagle Scouts.
Michael Valenti said this has been an exceptionally bad year for wildfires and the need for firefighters is high. He urged anyone who is interested to go to their state’s department of forestry for more information on how to get involved.
One person he doesn’t have to convince is his son.
“Growing up on the East Coast I never really understood the impact these fires can have on communities and towns — even entire states,” Nathaniel Valenti said. “I was glad to be able to go out there and make a difference. Whenever we had a reason to be in towns, people would come out and thank us. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do it again next year.”
Good Monday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier today…
Arlington Public Schools has a new internal social media platform for families but its anonymous commenting policy prompted a tense discussion among some School Board members. This year, the school…
An Arlington-based company that helps startup founders turn their ideas into viable ventures has a new permanent home in Rosslyn.
Through Christmas, ART bus trips in peak directions along the I-66 corridor, during rush hour, will be free.
The Arlington Sports Hall of Fame is extremely pleased to announce that our 2023 Annual Induction Dinner, again in partnership with the Better Sports Club of Arlington, will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 11, at the Knights of Columbus, located at 5115 Little Falls Road, Arlington, Va.
Our dinner will pay tribute to all the honored members of the Hall of Fame and will induct the following six new Class of 2023 inductees, joining the 62 athletes, coaches and contributors who have been inducted into ASHOF since its founding in 1958:
Noel Deskins (Yorktown Class of ’79): Track & Field record-holder & Athlete of the Year at YHS and JMU
Eric Metcalf (O’Connell Class of ’85): Star NFL running back, football and track & field record-holder and Hall of Famer at both O’Connell and the University of Texas
🌟 Calling all adventurous hearts! 🌟
💑 Get ready for an evening of excitement and connection as we present Speed Dating Night at The Renegade in Arlington, VA! 🌆
📅 Mark your calendars for Oct 20th, from 6-9 pm, because