Former CCHS grad and Prineville Hotshot, Kate Hamberger, reflects on her firefighting career with a memoir of her experiences
Kate Hamberger has lived through a myriad of storms in her life, including a career as a wildland firefighter.
The former CCHS grad and Prineville Hotshot is asking residents of Prineville for help. She has written a memoir about growing up in Prineville and working as a firefighter, but needs 4,000 subscribers to her website's email list before her book agent will approach a publisher.
"I would be so grateful if readers would go to my website (www.katehamberger.com) and add their names and email addresses on the subscribe form! Every name helps," she emphasized.
It has been almost 30 years since Hamberger worked as a local wildland firefighter. In 1994, she worked for 10 days with the Prineville Hotshots as an alternate just before they left for the tragic Colorado fires and the firestorm at Storm King Mountain.
Hamberger went to school with the late Jon Kelso, graduating from Crook County High School in 1985 and later attended Oregon State University at the same time as Kelso. The two worked their first full fire season with the Prineville Hotshot crew in 1986.
Kelso, and eight other Prineville Hotshots were killed at the South Canyon Fire on that fateful day of July 6. 1994. Hamberger's memoir, with the working title of "Dances with Fire," reflects on her experiences as a wildland firefighter, and honors the courageous men and women she had the privilege to work with.
"I am hoping to especially reach young women who are faced with opportunities, but also risk, and want to encourage them to have the grit to stick with hard things," reflected Hamberger of her memoir. "I wish someone had written a book like this when I was 19."
In 2016, Hamberger worked as a massage therapist, and while conducting a massage for a client, the woman asked how she got interested in massage therapy.
Hamberger responded, "While working those long, hard shifts on the fire line, my muscles often hurt and I wished someone would give me a shoulder massage."
The client's response was incredulous that she had been a firefighter. After telling several of her stories, her client told her, "You have got to write these stories down."
Not knowing how to begin, she was directed to a writer's conference near Santa Cruz, California.
"I went, and that made all the difference," pointed out Hamberger.
At another writer's conference in 2018, and the last evening of the conference, there was an awards night. One of the awards was for "The Most Promising New Writer" award, which to her surprise, she was awarded.
"That was pretty exciting," Hamberger said of her book beginnings.
"Sometimes fire is in the background of my stories and sometimes it is in the foreground. Something that any firefighter would tell you is that because it is such an intense job, it changes a person. By the end of the book, I am different, stronger--and more grown up."
Hamberger emphasizes that the more time passes, the more she realizes the work that wildland firefighters do and the places they go are extraordinary.
"But it is also a story about growing up in Prineville and how I was influenced by great teachers, coaches and classmates to do hard things. It's an adventure story complete with humor (as I make fun of my younger self), suspense, triumphs, failures, a bit of romance, and it's all set in the beauty of nature."
She returned in 1994 to Prineville for a final summer of fire, working on an engine crew at the old Ochoco Ranger Station but was called to join the hotshots as an alternate. She worked with them on two fires in California and a fire outside of Bend before her "tour of duty" ended.
"I became friends with several crew members and have tried to describe what it was like to work with this great group of people," Hamberger said.
"I wrote the book to share my unique story and fondness for the town of my youth and ask that people subscribe to my newsletter by going to my website at www.katehamberger.com," concluded Hamberger.
At the bottom of the homepage, there is a form asking for a name and email address. In return she will send subscribers a free playlist of fire songs and keep them posted on a publish date along with more fire stories and photos.
Hamberger is available for speaking engagements and she especially enjoys talking with teens and women of all ages.
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