Job Sanchez glances at his girlfriend, Valeria, as he gets his head shaven the night before starting the academy. Two months later, when Job fell asleep at the wheel and totaled his vehicle, Valeria gave him the keys to her fathers car to make sure he completed his training.

Lead instructor Ryan Carey, 35, was a hotshot firefighter before a back injury ended his career. He has since taught four academies at Rio Hondo. "I'm not only teaching the future wildland fire academy cadets but also I’m a full time faculty, so at the heart of it, I’m a teacher. I love the fact that even if they don’t continue on in their career I take pride in teaching them life skills."

Cadet Franky Lopez yells out his name during a shelter deployment drill. 

Franco Barahona, 23, welcomes his newborn son, Samson, at a hospital in San Diego. The father of three left behind a life surrounded by gang violence and a job as a roofer to become a firefighter.

Tobey Arestad, 35, proves he can handle the heat during a timed hot-wings challenge. 

Job Sanchez worked nights and weekends at a gas station during the academy to make ends meet. 

Cadet Taylor, 29, cares to a severe reaction to poison oak. 

Cadet Jonah Franco poses for a portrait after a day of cutting a fire line in the Angeles National Forest. 

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