“I don’t take life for granted,” he said, when asked how the landslide changed him. “I realize that it’s fragile, and that the unthinkable could happen at any time or any place, just like it did in Oso, one of the most peaceful places there is to visit.”

On the morning of March 22, Hots was attending a wildfire firefighter refresher class when he heard the first calls for help go out.

“My pager went off for what was reported as a roof of a barn and flooding in the road on State Route 530,” he said.

He says he told the man teaching the class he’d be back in about 20 minutes. He didn’t return to the fire station until seven days later.

In the hours that followed, crews realized the landslide had clogged the Stillaguamish River and completely stopped the flow of water. There were serious concerns about what might happen if that natural-made dam gave way.

Chief Hots asked a geologist to look at the site from an aircraft overhead, and offer his expert opinion.

“His analysis was that with the pressure building behind the mud, we could have a catastrophic event,” he recalled.

At that point, he made the decision to send crews door-to-door, to warn people downstream that it was time to evacuate.

Exclusive interview of Chief Hots:

Story courtesy of KING 5 News – Seattle

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