Local firefighter boot factory makes it on the big screen - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Local firefighter boot factory makes it on the big screen

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SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. -

Every year, thousands of men and women put their lives on the line to keep us safe battling wildfires.

And one of the keys to keeping them safe is their boots. And they're handmade right here in the Inland Northwest.

The Nicks Handmade Boots factory is located off Appleway in Spokane Valley.

“There's just no better boot built,” said President and owner, Steve Mowe.

So what makes this boot the firefighters choice?

“They have to be a certain height,” said Mowe. “They have Kevlar thread and a fire-resistant sole.”

More than the material makeup of the boot, they’re cut, stitched, stretched, and treated by hand.

The process starts with bull hides from Milwaukee.

“This is the cutting station,” said General Manager, Grant Pemberton. “It's like cutting cookies.”

The boots make their way through more than a dozen stations inside the factory.

Workers use 21st-century manufacturing techniques mixed with 600-year-old boot making technology so that every step is perfectly calculated to meet every custom order.

“So they're basically leather, and rubber, and screws, and nails,” said Mowe. “And that’s it.”

The boots are shipped to wildland firefighters in all 50 states and more than 20 countries including Norway, South Korea, and Russia.

And nearly all of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who died fighting a fire in Arizona four years ago were wearing Nicks boots.

“I took ownership the day after these Granite Mountain firefighters died,” said Mowe.

It was a sobering moment for Mowe, who wouldn't think much about the tragedy in the years following until he got a call from Hollywood.

“The movie called in and said ‘hey we want to be authentic’,” said Mowe.

That movie, Only the Brave, is based on the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

Mowe and his team were asked to ship 42 pairs of boots for the actors. The movie would start shooting in just two short weeks.

“We had just moved and were going ‘we have no time from this.’ It was chaos,” said Mowe. “We were pulling boots from try-ons, and seconds, and off the rack, and shipping them. So we emptied the place out.”

They got it done, but not without a few hitches along the way; Actor Josh Brolin's boots didn't fit.

“We're going ‘oh great we just shut down this movie production because the actor cannot walk’,” said Mowe.

In 53 years of handcrafting boots, Nicks has never been asked to take part in a movie.

But much like the hotshots they serve, once the credits stop rolling they'll go right back to where they want to be: Behind the scenes.

You can watch Only the Brave in theaters starting this Friday. 

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