Arts, Culture & Media

Meet the firefighters from American Samoa who sing to stay motivated on the job

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Firefighters from the Sequoia National Forest Cobra 4 hand crew mop up a spot fire on the northern edge of the King Fire in the Tahoe National Forest. 

Credit:

Max Whittaker/Reuters

More than 80 wildfires have raged across northern California this year, killing 42 people and causing nearly $1 billion in damage.

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Fire crews from all across the country are deployed to help during peak wildfire season each year.

Squad 61 from American Samoa spent about three months fighting wildfires in California recently. They’re a hand crew, responsible for hiking to specific locations to construct and work firelines to help contain the blaze.

“Our role is to go out there and pretty much be the muscle,” says firefighter Anthony Wyberski.

It’s grueling work, but the firefighters in Squad 61 have a unique way staying motivated — they sing.

“It’s part of what we call fa’asamoa — our Samoan way of life,” says Wyberski. “It’s just something that’s naturally born within us, and something that we do on a daily basis at home.”

A bystander recently captured a video of the crew singing a church song as they marched out of a forest. The video went viral, one of the few uplifting scenes from California in the past few weeks.

“Every day, hiking back to our vehicles, we’ll sing a different song,” says Wyberski. “It’s what we use to get through the day.”

Here’s a video of American Samoa Squad 61 singing: