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Thursday, April 2, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Valley Christian senior hopes to help protect national forests as firefighter someday

Conner Johnson is set to graduate from Valley Christian School in Spokane Valley. (COURTESY PHOTO)
Conner Johnson is set to graduate from Valley Christian School in Spokane Valley. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Connor Johnson is a young man on a very specific mission. And he’s ready to get started on it.

The Valley Christian senior already has enlisted in the Army Reserve and will spend his summer in basic training. That’s a necessary first step.

Then he launches into his real mission: to battle forest fires.

“The Army Reserve is a really good foot-in-the-door for firefighter training,” Johnson explained.

To some, fighting forest fires is a part-time job – and a demanding one at that. But Johnson is serious about the undertaking and wants to make it a career.

“I’ve spent summers in Brewster, and that area has been hit so hard with forest fires,” he said. “I’ve gotten to know the people who fight those fires and it made me want to be one of those people.”

As you talk to Johnson, you can hear the earnest desire to help battle one of the biggest dangers to our national forests. He’s been accepted into a training program in Montana, and he’s eager to become part of a crew.

“I’ve always enjoyed being part of a team, and I think that’s a big part of why I want to be a firefighter. I want to be part of that kind of a team.

“I have some interest in forestry and learning about all of the different aspects of it, but mostly I want to help protect them.”

In fact, he explained, he’s already contemplating advanced training so that he can one day lead a firefighting crew.

But for now, he said, he plans to stay firmly rooted on the ground.

“I’m not planning to be a smoke jumper,” he said. “Maybe later on. That’s a specialized thing.”

Johnson said he found an excellent fit at Valley Christian School.

“I started high school at Ferris, but I struggled being in such a big school. There were so many kids in my classes that the teachers couldn’t remember your name. My parents put me in Valley Christian and suddenly instead of being in a class of 30 or 35 kids, I’m in a class of 10 or 12 and the teachers know everyone’s name and knows their family.

“I was able to develop some really good relationships with my teachers.”

At Valley Christian, there was an opportunity to turn out for sports – a natural fit for a team-oriented student.

“I did turnout for football my freshman year at Ferris,” he said. “I was pretty much an undersized kid trying to keep up, but I did my best and I had fun. But at Valley Christian, I was able to do something I would never have been able to do at Ferris – I turned out and played soccer for my high school team. I also turned out for track and field. I ran the 110 and 300 hurdles and ran on the 4 by 400 relay team.

“It was all about being part of a team. I loved that. And now I want to be part of a different team.”

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