Ten years ago, Michael Arkfeld watched the Angeles Forest burn from his uncle’s house in Pasadena. It was the notorious “Station fire”, the largest in the history of Los Angeles county, burning over 160,000 acres. Watching the fire was like witnessing an infernal apocalypse, but it was oddly beautiful and hard to look away from. Inspiration is often more serpentine than we realize, as it was for sixteen-year-old Michael watching the mountains ablaze. Five years later he would join the academy, and five years after that he earned his five-year belt—the hallmark of a Golden Eagle Hotshot veteran.
Before he became a wildland firefighter, Michael was a lifeguard working at LEGOLAND. One day during the summer he noticed clouds of smoke billowing over the pool. In an ironic turn of events, a fire broke out in Carlsbad, causing power outages and forcing the evacuations of all rides. After that summer, he was again displaced and forced to find another job. Once again, a fire would change the course of his destiny.