Evan Jones has started his days for the last week and a half by waking up at 5 a.m. and heading into Idaho mountains to help fight a sprawling wildfire.
Jones, 31, of Valparaiso, is part of a 20-member team from Indiana helping to battle the Beaver Creek Fire, which has spread across 106,323 acres. He works on the National Park Service fire crew at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
According to a website set up by officials, 9 percent of the fire was contained as of Tuesday. More than 1,700 emergency workers are on scene trying to contain the fire.
Jones arrived in Idaho on Aug. 9 and will stay for 14 days. During grueling 16-hour workdays, Jones helps ensure new fires don't start and that the fire is contained.
"On a large fire like this, it's just a gradual process," he said. "You chip away."
Jones said the hardest part of fighting a wildfire is finding the best place to stop the fire.
"There's endless amount of space for the fire to continue to grow," Jones said. "It's our job to steer it and protect the small communities."
Back in Valparaiso, his girlfriend Angela Meyers said she has been on pins and needles. She usually talks to him for a few minutes each day when he reaches the campsite where he is going to sleep for the night.
He told Meyers he was spending Tuesday night at a camp site closer to the blaze in case smaller fires start to pop up.
"These past couple of days, I just cry because I envision something awful," she said.
Meyers said she worries about the toll sequestration cuts have on Jones' line of work and about his health benefits if he gets injured.
Jones graduated from Indiana University, where he studied natural resource management. At Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Jones is part of a crew that handles prescribed fires during the spring and fall.
During the summer, Jones travels across the country to help other agencies battle wildfires. On average, he helps with two to four large fires each summer.
"It's always a lot of work," he said. "It's always fulfilling work. You feel really accomplished."