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'They're always on your mind': Parents of firefighters explain fire season

Photo courtesy the Hartmeier family

There are more than a dozen fires burning across Oregon.

So far, more than 500,00 acres are now burned, which means it’s been a long summer for firefighters.

“The Whitewater, the Rebel, the Potato Hill,” Shelly Hartmeier, of Portland, names just a few of the fires her sons have fought so far this summer

“Nathan is more doing the barrier lines, and Ben is on the chainsaw crew,” she explained.

She and her husband, Steve, knew nearly nothing about wildland firefighting, until their sons decided it would be a good summer job.

“They're always on your mind,” Shelly said.

Ben and Nathan Hartmeier are just 22 and 20 years old. At those ages, it's usually college parents worry about, but, for the Hartmeier’s, this summer's been pretty scary.

"There just seems to be so many fires breaking out," Steve Hartmeier said.

Nathan and Ben usually work 16-hour days for two weeks straight. Then they are rewarded with two days off.

“You pray a lot,” Shelly said.

So far this summer, the Hartmeier’s have only seen their sons twice. The reunions are rare, and sometimes, so is the communication.

“I try and text them every couple days. You may not hear back and then you get, ‘All good, love you, Mom.’ And you're just so happy to hear that,” Shelly explained.

The Hartmeier's said it was after the Eagle Creek Fire started, in a place so many love, that people really started to understand what it's like for their sons.

“When everybody sees it so close to home, and sees the flames and sees the crews, it becomes more personal to other people,” Shelly said.

But really, no one knows what it's like except those fighting the good fight, and giving it their all.

“There's no time for sniveling or wanting to sleep,” Steve said.

“They know they need to give it 110 percent and look out for others,” Shelly said.

The two young men have about a week or so left before they’ll come home and head back to college.

READ MORE: Visitors viewing the Eagle Creek Fire feel stunned and saddened

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