WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Over a thousand miles from home, Hutchinson native Riley Dreher is fighting the fires that are casting a smoky glaze over the Kansas skies.
Dreher is a part of the team of Bonneville Hotshots, a specialized wildland fire team that fights flames with saws and tools and even fire itself.
“You can make a difference, and you can get out here. Just because you’re from Kansas doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference out here with this,” Dreher tells KSN.
Dreher graduated from Buhler High School in 2016 before heading to Hutchinson Community College. At HCC, Dreher studied wildland firefighting under the direction of instructors including his stepfather, Jamie Copple.
This summer, while on a Hotshot deployment, Dreher graduated from Wichita State University with a degree in exercise science.
This is his fourth summer of firefighting and second year with the Bonneville HotShots.
One of his primary tasks is removing fuel from the fire’s path, such as trees and debris that could grow the fire. They perform controlled burns.
Dreher has clocked 20,000+ steps some days and carries upwards of 40 pounds of gear.
“It’s a natural disaster and we can only do so much,” Dreher explained as resources nationally are focused on the fire effort, including groups who may not typically fight fires.
Dreher and crew will work until they hit 1,200 hours of overtime, which he anticipates will be soon. He looks forward to coming back to Kansas and spending time with friends and family.