It began as a routine run.
It ended with a viral video.
St. Johnsbury native Trevor Murphy was jogging in McDowell Mountain Regional Park near his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Friday morning when he came across a wildfire and began to stomp out the blaze.
His actions were captured by a news helicopter and the video — which showed him darting between flames and creating a firebreak with his feet — quickly spread across social media.
Murphy wasn’t looking for the attention. He had been there for two hours before the helicopter arrived. His only goal was to slow the fire’s progress.
“I just wanted to help,” he said.
Murphy goes to McDowell Mountain “three to four days a week” to run a 15-mile section of trail in preparation for a 100-mile ultra-marathon in October.
The 35-year-old father of two typically arrives at dawn, before the gates are opened, so when they were closed on Friday it seemed normal.
Two miles into his jog he noticed a light.
“I see flames out in the distance. But it didn’t look like a huge wildfire,” he said.
Around mile five he encountered burning brush along the trailside.
“The fire is literally burning right up to the trail that I’m running on,” he said. “I was five miles from the trailhead, kind of in the middle of the desert. So then I called 911, I called the fire department, and then I just started trying to put out the perimeter of the fire where the flames were smaller.”
Two hours later the helicopter arrived.
He didn’t think much of it at the time. Then he was contacted by his wife, Amanda, who had watched the video live on the local news broadcast.
“My wife texted me while I was out there and was like ‘What are you doing? I just saw you on the news,’” Murphy said. “I guess all of her friends were messaging her ‘Trevor’s on the news, he’s fighting a fire.’ She was like ‘What the hell?’”
That set of a chain reaction. He was featured in a two-minute news segment that ran on CNN and was interviewed by Inside Edition and Runners World. The story ran on TMZ and in newspapers across the country and around the world
“It’s crazy. I had no idea that it would get that much traction,” he said.
Murphy is no stranger to attention. He was a top-ranked alpine skier at Burke Mountain Academy before a knee injury ended his racing career. He switched to golf and found great success. He is a three-time winner of the Vermont Amateur, a former Vermont Open champion, and he made the cut at the 2009 U.S. Open.
But social media fame was something different.
“It’s amazing how many angry people there are on social media. You try to do something good and you get kind of abused,” he said. “I feel like some people think I went out of my way to get on the news but that wasn’t the case.”
In the course of fighting the fire, Murphy melted the soles of his Hoka Speedgoat shoes, cracked the screen of his phone and singed the hair on his arms and legs. When he returned to his car, he found a parking ticket.
He said “it wasn’t smart” to fight the fire the way he did. But he feels good about his actions.
In an interview with CNN affiliate KPHO, he said, “It’s a positive thing. If we can all to our part and help each other, yeah, it’s for the greater good.”