Lexi Quinn is a wildland firefighter, bowhunter, outdoor enthusiast, writer, and business owner. She started hunting at the age of five, bowhunting by age 12, and has been fighting wildland fires for over a decade. She told us that her entire life she has always experienced an intense urge and pull to be outdoors. Nature is where she goes to recharge, to be at peace, and to relax. She chose a career in wildland firefighting because she wants to make a difference and because she is dedicated to preserving our land. Her unique perspective on life outdoors is enlightening.
What is fire season like outdoors?
“You're sleeping out on the ground, typically with a tarp and a sleeping bag for two weeks at a time. You go home for two days, back out for two weeks, home for two days, and you do that for six to seven months. You’re sharing barracks, you're living in the same building, and you're out on the fire line with the same 19 guys all summer long. Hiking, you're in a straight line hiking next to each other. Embracing the suck, together. Overcoming challenges, hard days, days when you want to fall over from exhaustion, the crew is there to pick each other up. When you go home for the season, because we all get laid off for like four months out of the year, you just feel different. We have to go back into society. You have to integrate yourself back in. You're not with your crew buddies anymore and it's just very difficult. But once that fire season rolls back around, it's right back to work. And it's probably one of the most self-satisfying jobs out there because it pushes your mind, pushes your body, and it pushes your spirit. I have more of a respect for nature and what it's capable of. Anybody who has ever seen a wildland fire before, it's probably one of the most powerful things I've ever seen. It can be very destructive. And just to see what nature can do is just amazing.”
Why did you become a wildland firefighter?
“I started fighting fire when I was 16. I started working for a volunteer fire department and then eventually went to college for it, getting a job full-time, worked as a firefighter EMT for three or four years. But I wanted to be outside, in the wild, in the mountains. I wanted to fight more fire. As much as I love people and working with patients, I needed more connection with the outdoors. I didn't even know that wildland firefighters were a thing. I didn't even know they existed until college. It's not advertised very much in the Midwest or the east coast very much because obviously we don't really have a lot of wildland firefighters out there. But as soon as I heard about wildland firefighting, I made no hesitation to grab my dog, sell everything off, and load up my car with the rest of what I owned and move to Utah to work for the Forest Service. That began my long-term career."
It seems like a pretty intimidating job.
“Because I'm an adrenaline junkie and because I've done fire for so long, I'm not afraid of it. I study it and I’ve learned enough about fire to know what it's capable of and how strong it is. And it's not something you want to mess with. It's like picking a fight with a guy that's way bigger than you. You just know not to do it. It's the same with fire. I became a firefighter because I want to make a difference, I wanted to be part of a family, a community, a brotherhood, to serve and protect. And so I did. It's the best job in the world."
What is your perspective regarding nature?
“As a human race, we've spent a lot of time destroying nature. Out of convenience, we take and use more than we really need and we've done a lot more to damage nature than to conserve it. I feel that if more people did more to give back, even just planting a tree, that would help. For example, wildfires can be very destructive and sometimes the fires burn so hot that plants will never grow back there because the soil was destroyed due to extreme heat. Sometimes we have to go in and replant trees and sagebrush in order for anything to grow back. So, because of our impact on the world and how we've impacted nature, I feel like my job as a wildland firefighter is my way of giving back and trying to make it right as best I can; encouraging conservation as much as possible. Once the public lands are gone, once the animals are gone, that's it. Without them, we don't survive. Obviously animals can't talk; trees can't talk. So we need to be their voice. We need to help them survive because their survival is our survival. As a hunter, it's our responsibility to show respect, teach respect and ethics, and be the good example. The overall health and survival of our wildlife, proper management of our lands, and the survival of this culture lies on us. If we just cut back on some resources that we don't truly need and maybe do more to put more resources back into the ground, things will start to get a lot better over the next 10 to 20 years.”
So land preservation means a lot to you? “The preservation of public lands is incredibly important. There's been discussion about selling off some of the public lands. But if you look at the U.S. for example, the east coast doesn't have as much public land as the west coast does. So states like Ohio and North Carolina have very small amounts of public land available for hunters compared to the millions of acres of land out west. Once you start selling that land off, once you start developing it, you can never bring it back. You can never bring it back to the natural environment that it once was. Once you destroy that ecosystem, once you start cutting the trees down and developing, you can never go backwards. That's why it's important for people who enjoy these public lands to vote; pay attention to new bills being passed and lands being sold off. Use your voice and fight back. Do we really need new dealerships and housing when we already have so many spaces vacant, so many ghost towns?”
What is your outlook when it comes to hunting? “Yes, I'm a hunter, but I'm also an animal lover and I respect them. I respect their boundaries. For example, one day I was fishing and an elk decided to go for a little swim no more than 10 yards away from me. He didn't bother me, I didn't bother him. He wasn't afraid of me, I wasn't afraid of him. I just kept minding my own business, kept fishing, and he just went on his way. To me, that was not only a once in a lifetime incredible experience, but it made me realize that nature and humans can share. We can all coexist. Every time I see an animal my urge isn't to kill it. I only hunt animals for food, and only when I need it. I still see this beautiful creature, and I respect it. That's my perspective when it comes to nature and the outdoors.”
You hunt with your uncle? “Yes I do. My uncle Greg is my role model. He's one of the strongest, most stubborn people I've ever met in my life. Stubborn in a really good way. He was electrocuted when he was 15, basically had an entire town of electricity run through his body. He ended up losing his arm as well as having multiple skin grafts. Then a couple years after that, he got into a car accident and broke his back. But he continued pursuing his passion for archery and competed in tournaments. Before the league had a handicapped category, he always had to be one step ahead of everybody else as far as scoring goes. He never got special treatment or anything like that. So he had to work that much harder to be able to use his bow and be really efficient with it. He developed and created his own little mouthpiece for the bow, a cat collar, so he could pull the bow back with his teeth, which is very creative. Greg has harvested some of the biggest, most beautiful bucks I've ever seen. He's beaten cancer and nothing can or will stand in his way. He is unstoppable."