Unsung Heroes: Troop stops wildfire along side of road, thwarting potential disaster

This is Unsung Heroes, a Bryan on Scouting blog series celebrating under-reported acts of Scouting heroism. These are stories that don’t make national headlines — but should. That’s doubly true in this world that can always use more good news. Read the latest story below, and find instructions for sharing your own Unsung Heroes story at the end of the post.


The Scouts were out — asleep the moment they got into the van and headed home. That day’s 17-mile hike through the Grand Canyon had taken its toll.

But no amount of exhaustion stopped these courageous Scouts.

When the young men of Troop 143 from the Las Vegas Area Council came across a wildfire on the side of the road, they demonstrated bravery and determination that might have prevented a massive blaze.

The van was headed southwest through the Havasupai Indian Reservation, where the Scouts had spent the past three nights hiking and camping. The trip to see spectacular waterfalls and gorgeous scenery resulted in memories the Scouts will cherish forever.

They were about 20 miles northeast of Peach Springs, Ariz., when the Scouts spotted smoke coming from a small fire along the side of the road.

Scoutmaster John Miller stopped the van and pulled over.

With no cell service and the nearest town a half-hour away, the Scouts of Troop 143 say they felt they had little choice but to act.

A Scout is brave — but smart, too

I love seeing Scouts who have the desire to do the right thing, but it’s here I should point out that the BSA doesn’t encourage Scouts or Scout leaders to put out wildfires.

Whenever you see, smell or suspect a fire, call 911.

While we’re on the subject of safety, it seems like an appropriate time to share this Campfire Safety Moment from the BSA’s health and safety team. It offers some quick, useful reminders for anyone planning to enjoy an intentionally lit fire in the near future.

OK, back to our heroes …

What the Scouts did

Like special forces on a mission, the Scouts reacted quickly the moment their Scoutmaster pulled over.

“We were all up and out instantly,” says Star Scout Rocco Bonsignore. “We grabbed what we had left for water and headed toward the fire and smoke.”

The Scouts split into two groups and flanked the fire on either side. They first focused on the larger flames, kicking sand and pouring water on them to deprive them of oxygen.

It was a seemingly Sisyphean exercise. Every time one flame went out, another seemed to pop up. The dry-as-bone ground and 15 mph winds weren’t helping.

While they worked, a driver stopped and told the Scouts he’d go to town and contact the fire department.

“They did not, however, arrive before we had finished and left,” Star Scout Ignatius Miller said.

Troop 143 members rest at their campsite during the trip.

‘We could not be more proud’

With the big flames gone at last, the Scouts shifted their focus to walking the area and stomping out smoky spots.

“Whatever it was that was burning was very stubborn and kept smoldering and smoking despite a lot of effort to put it out,” Eagle Scout Patrick Stanley says.

Finally satisfied that the fire was out cold, the Scouts got back on the road home.

“We could not be more proud of the emergency response of our troop,” Rocco says.

We’re proud too, Rocco.

We rarely read about wildfires that didn’t get out of control. But this is a worthy exception. It’s a story of Scouts who saved acres of farmland and helped people they may never meet.

My hat goes off to Ignatius, Patrick, Rocco, Adam Miller, Diesel Leano, Romeo Perez, Jacob Cardinali and their excellent adult leaders. Well done, Scouts.

Share your Unsung Heroes story

Stories like these brighten my day — especially because I know this kind of thing happens regularly in Scouting.

Here’s how to share the news of an Unsung Hero in your pack, troop or crew:

  1. Send an email to me with the subject line “Unsung Heroes.”
  2. Include a detailed summary of the heroic act.
  3. Include any “supporting documentation” you can. Examples include links to a story in your local newspaper, paperwork for a Scouting heroism award nomination or eyewitness accounts.
  4. Include high-res photos of the Unsung Hero.

Thanks to Mike Marchese for the blog post idea.

About Bryan Wendell 2871 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.