CSU student firefighters kindle a wildfire community

As wildland fire season approaches, Colorado State University student firefighters want to show what firefighting life is really like, by hosting a screening of Wildland, an independent film that follows a wildland fire crew over a single season.

Members of the Student Association of Fire Ecology can relate to the film and secured the screening rights. Many of them will also report to new wildland engine, fuels or hotshot crews around the U.S. following the semester. With a few fire seasons already under his belt, SAFE president Connor Chaffee said Wildland shows the hard work it requires to be on and off a fire line.

“It really takes a combination of teamwork and resilience to accomplish very difficult tasks in wildland firefighting,” said the senior who will join the Wyoming Hotshot crew after graduating this semester.

For SAFE, the film reflects their realities and the inner drive that inspires them to fulfill long, sometimes grueling, hours because of their motivation to help each other succeed and give back to the communities they serve.

Part of the proceeds from the film’s ticket sales will be donated to The Wildland Firefighter Foundation to assist families who have lost loved ones fighting wildfires. The remainder will go toward a fire science scholarship fund.

Wildland Film Screening

Thursday, April 18th 2019

6:00 PM

Lory Student Center Theatre

Tickets available at csutix.com 

Student firefighters stand within a burn area
Frank Brennan (left) and Connor Chaffee (right) at one of their spring break burn sites in Missouri. (All photos courtesy of Connor Chaffee)

Life mimics art

This year, SAFE members developed the kinds of camaraderie and dedication Wildland exemplifies by serving together as volunteers on winter pile burnings and multiple prescribed burns.

The group’s annual spring break trip to help The Nature Conservancy maintain state lands in Missouri took on a whole new level when the group covered 2000-miles to three corners of the state to treat over 800-acres of land. During their week off, six club members put in full days before trekking across the state treating new burn units.

Construction Management student Frank Brennan has five seasons of firefighting experience, but said serving in SAFE has been one of his most rewarding experiences in the fire community.

“The best part has been the feeling that I’m really helping people get involved in this industry and fostering curiosity in new firefighters,” he added.

CSU student firefighters light a grassy field on fire
Connor Chaffee, Keaton McCollam and Spencer Heidepriem help burn grassland in Missouri.
man lights wood in a snowy meadow
Spencer Heidepriem burns piles at the Ben Delatour Scout Ranch near Red Feather Lakes earlier this year.

Future leaders

Participating in SAFE has given members new perspectives as they prepare to enter their careers. “Many of us hope one day to step into other leadership roles,” said Chaffee. “My time at CSU has focused on developing leadership, and the qualitative and quantitative skills to understand this world we’re getting into.”

To help fund their spring break burn, SAFE offered 23 fellow students from CSU and Front Range Community College S-130/190 training last fall. Chaffee said leading this introductory firefighting and wildland fire behavior course showed students and instructors what they could accomplish together.

He’s excited the organization’s future efforts will be centered on giving back to a community that has given so much to each of them.


The Student Association of Fire Ecology is open to all students and found in the Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship.