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Whiskey maker designates $50,000 to support Hot Shot wildland firefighters

High West Distillery
High West pledges $50,000 in sales to the Wildland Fighters Foundation

$50,000 will go to western firefighters as part of the High West Distillery’s $1million commitment to Protect the West campaign.

This month Park City-based High West distillery released its Campfire Whiskey nationally. It has been available in Utah, but now people can find it in liquor stores and bars all over the country

Blending and Distilling Manager Isaac Winter said the Campfire is a blend of bourbon and rye whiskey with a small amount of scotch whiskey, which he said gives it a smoky taste.

Some proceeds from the sale of the Campfire whiskey blend will go to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

"Yeah, our Protect the West campaign is pledging a million dollars over the next three years to support nonprofits," Winter said. "And this year and last year, we partnered with the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. So, the sale of Campfire will help provide $50,000 to that really important organization."

Wildland Firefighter Foundation Executive Director Burk Minor said the foundation had helped about 600 people this year.

"Our main mission statement is to reach in and sustain the home of a killed or injured wildland firefighter,” Minor said. “Over the years, we've learned that it goes much farther. There's a lot involved with a lot of people and a lot of things that make that happen. So, we just try to take care of every avenue we can, every need they have."

Minor said most people are misinformed about the benefits wildland firefighters, and their families get if they are injured or killed on the job.”

"Wildland firefighters are probably the most underrated public servant we have walking this planet," Minor said. "And the fact is when they get injured and stuff out there, their paychecks stop. It gets turned over to a workman's comp system. Unfortunately, sometimes paperwork gets gnarly. Doctors aren't familiar with things. So, there can be a real lag time before that firefighter actually receives any income. And I believe we all know that on workman's comp, you only get 60% of your straight time, and wildland firefighter, you know, they make their living on overtime. So, there's a great lag for them and a great need for what we do. We just kind of fill the gaps if you will, that the agencies can't do due to red tape and things like that."

Minor said the rainy weather this summer throughout the western states has allowed fuel to increase. He said forecasters are preparing for late season, dangerous, wildland fire conditions.

"All of our western states got a lot of precipitation this spring, and all that did was slow down fire season," Minor said. "Unfortunately, the day and age we're at, call it global warming, El Nino, whatever you want to label it. Our fuels are changing out there. When we get the moisture that we did this spring, all that does is grow that fuel out there, and it will dry out. It's drying out now."

Learn more about the Wildland Firefighter Foundation in the online version of this report at KPCW.org.

KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.