First Responders: Eric Zanotto, U.S. Forest Service

Meet Eric Zanotto, district fire management officer for U.S. Forest Service. One of five portraits of first responders and Colorado Springs local heroes.

Meet a handful of first responders, representatives of the thousands in our community who give their best when the worst comes calling.

District Fire Management Officer
U.S. Forest Service

ON THE JOB: Since 1991

BACKGROUND: Worked nearly 15 years on a Hotshot Crew

ABOUT HIS JOB: “We are a highly trained group of firefighters that go into some of the steeper terrain of wildfire. Our specialty is line construction. We go in with chainsaws and hand tools and pack on our backs. … Unlike some other crews, we works together every day of the season.”

ON WHY HE DOES IT: “I do take some pride in helping people that I don’t know, knowing that they’ll never know who I am. … I don’t need thanks. It feels good going home when you did what you could do. I kind of like that.”

ON FEAR: “I would say that we all, everybody, have some level of fear—which is healthy. If we didn’t, I’d wonder what I was doing in there.”

ON BEING A SUPERVISOR: “I never forgot where I came from, but I forget how hard it is. I have probably forgotten a lot of miserable moments I had. The challenge is to remember for the folks working under me, recognizing where they are.”

ON PERCENTAGES: “Of all the fire and all the acres burned and all the stuff that’s gone on, it’s a fairly small percentage that goes really bad. I kind of look at that outcome. And we try to learn from those things that don’t go well, so we don’t do that again.”

ON THE BAD DAYS: “I wouldn’t say I go into great details about it with my wife. Usually because I don’t want to relive the moment myself. She can handle it. She married into it. … It’s more of there’s not really a whole lot to say. It’s like something happened and obviously everything came out OK.”

—T.D. Mobley-Martinez. Photography by Aaron Anderson.

Read all five portraits of first responders. Watch the behind the scenes video. See different photographs in the Spring 2016 print issue.

Read More