While his mother - Senior Deputy District Attorney Joyce Dudley-was embroiled in the two-week-long sex crime trial of a former Santa Barbara High School tennis coach, Sam Dudley was out battling the Jesusita Fire as a Forest Service Hotshot. It’s the 21-year-old’s second season on a Forest Service fire crew, and his first as a Hotshot, but he’s already experienced the hard work that goes into getting a wildfire under wraps. “We were just working super hard, cutting a lot of line, and doing everything we could when the wind started howling down the canyon,” he said of his experience during the high winds on May 6. The supervisor pulled his crew was pulled back as gusts blew up to 60 miles per hour, sending the fire rushing towards them. “There’s not a whole lot you can do.”
Dudley said that looking up at the mountains from the coast gives a deceiving impression about the terrain. “It’s steep up there, and the brush is really thick - it hasn’t burned in 55 years,” he said, adding that he and most of his teammates got poison oak. A couple of guys got it so badly that their eyes were swollen shut for a day or two. Despite the hardships he faced on his second season fighting wildfires, Dudley plans on making it a career. “The work is mentally and physically challenging - your situational awareness has to be up at all times,” he said. “It’s a good living and it’s nice to help out.” Although his crew was rotated out of the fire late on Saturday, May 9, Dudley still managed to get up early enough on Sunday morning to get over to Victor the Florist to get Mothers’ Day flowers for one very appreciative District Attorney.