Netflix's 'Fire Chasers' Shows How Fighting Fires Saved The Life Of One Former Addict
Fire Chasers, a new Netflix docuseries, follows the valiant workers helping to combat the wildfires that ravage California every summer. It's a critical and gripping story — record-high temperatures, altered vegetation, and post-drought conditions have made this year's the worst in decades — but for many, it's also a deeply personal one. And for Fire Chasers star Bri Cody, a former convict and addict, it's a cause that changed her life.
Viewers first meet Cody while she's incarcerated at The California Department of Corrections. Following a childhood marred by drug addiction and familial strife, she fell into the wrong crowd, and was charged with burglary and sentenced to 32 months in prison. Once there, she learned of the conservation fire camp, a program that trains inmates to fight fires and work on preservation projects. Cody joined, in part, because of the added freedoms — there's better food, and no bars or barbed wire, she says — but primarily because it allowed her to see and hug her family, especially her now 11-year-old son. But as time went on, it also became her saving grace.
"I never even considered that I had the potential to be a firefighter, and I’m not going to say that I loved it right away. It was hard, and I hated it at first. I thought, ‘What did I get myself into?’" Cody says over the phone. "But as you get better and confidence grows, there's a feeling of accomplishment. It’s a reality check. It’s a huge lesson to learn and it was a really beautiful lesson to learn, because I got to know a different side of life. I have an entirely new outlook on hard work, gratitude, teamwork, and establishing real, true connections with people."
She says in the documentary that learning to fight fires taught her to believe in herself, to push herself to stay clean, and when she was released in February, she put that to the test.
"Every day is a struggle. There are better days than others, but the huge difference now is that I play the tape through. I look at how far I’ve come, I look at how many people are counting on me. This is the kind of job where if I mess up, I could die," Cody says. "I’ve never felt stronger in my sobriety than I do today. Ever. I feel like it’s real this time. I’m just done."
Now, Cody works at the California Conservation Corps, where she was recently promoted to recruit others eager to do something different with their lives, and give them the same chance that once transformed hers. The people she recruits don't necessarily come from the same rough upbringing she endured — they're young adults from a broad range of backgrounds — but they all have the same goal: to save lives, stop fires, and encourage others to do their part.
"For anyone who has low self-esteem, who doesn’t like who see in the mirror, who doesn’t believe in themselves or second guesses themselves, I want them to see Fire Chasers and realize that there’s a way out. There’s a way to change that way of thinking," Cody says. "There’s something that happens in people — I’ve watched it happen with other people too — when you give back, when you do right, when you work hard and put everything you have into everything you do everyday, it changes you. There’s this little light that starts to flicker."
Now, for Cody, that little light is a blazing fire.