An August 15 article in the Rapid City Journal in South Dakota told the story of firefighter Austin Whitney, who is in the long and painful process of recovering from severe burns across thirteen percent of his body. He received those second degree burns and third degree burns after the Coal Canyon wildfire trapped the 22-year-old and four fellow firefighters.
What is helping Austin to make the best recovery he can is this: the power of his mind. “His spirits are just out of this world. He is in such a good mindset,” said Robert Whitney, Austin’s father, from outside the hospital room just two days after Austin was burned. “He told me that this incident isn’t going to stop him from being a firefighter.”
Austin Whitney followed in the firefighting footsteps of his father, grandfather, and aunts and uncles. This summer was his first season with the South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression Division, a state firefighting agency. But Austin started fighting fires when he turned 18, joining the Pringle Volunteer Fire Department–the same department as his father and grandfather. He joined the Cascade Volunteer Fire Department the following year, and is now a co-captain. “It overjoyed me to no end,” said Austin’s father. “It excited me that he would take an interest like this.”