August 2, 2017
Imagine yourself 1,300 feet below ground, in total darkness. The silence of a seemingly infinite cave envelops you as you search for food, water and others just like you. That’s exactly what contestants — including three IAFF members — experience on “Darkness,” Discovery Channel’s new series. The survival show premieres on Wednesday, August 2, at 10 p.m. EST.
This reality game is unlike any you’ve seen before. The show plunges three people into an underground cave in separate locations. After a 30-hour acclimation period and a series of behavior response tests, the three adventurers begin searching for food, water and each other. Together, their goal is to find their way out of the cave in six days.
Not just anyone can endure such extreme conditions; the experience is described as “one of the most advanced and comprehensive tests of mental and physical survival ever captured on television.” For Brandon Lee and Jeff Tucks, the series showcases the unshakable bond between IAFF members. The two men from different parts of the country met while in the caves and instantly bonded over their experiences as fire fighters. Mike Covert, a third IAFF member, is set to appear in the show’s second season, airing in 2018.
For 37-year-old Brandon Lee, a 17-year veteran of the Shreveport Fire Department and member of Louisiana Local 514, the challenge was far more than physical. “To be honest, my biggest fear was not the darkness, but being alone with my thoughts — like really alone,” said Lee about the experience.
But he wasn’t alone for long. While Lee was in the cave, the husband and father of five met Jeff Tucker, a fellow fire fighter, and the two instantly bonded. The chance encounter and subsequent bond is a paramount example of the loyalty and trust of IAFF members nationwide: “It reminded me so much of being in the fire service and relying on another person with your life — those bonds, that brotherhood. It was alive down in those caves.”
Lee credits the show for offering him a fresh perspective after facing near-death experiences and forming new friendships. “We are like long-lost brothers,” said Lee of Tucker, a 54-year-old retired fire fighter and father of three.
A member of Fort Worth, Texas Local 440, Jeff Tucker is a former arson and bomb investigator who currently teaches CrossFit classes. His mental ability and physical stamina were tested beyond measure during the survival show. But what sticks out the most is the emotional connection forged between the participants. There was a time when he thought he had lost Lee, his partner in the experience: “I was reliving moments as a fire fighter that I didn’t even know where there — memories I had buried,” he said.
Even months later, Tucker still treasures the growth and bonds formed during the experience. The show was a taxing, demanding and rewarding experience, filled with exhausting lows and exhilarating joy and laughter. The biggest takeaway has been his newfound friend, Brandon Lee. “A day has not gone by that we haven’t chatted,” said Tucker. “Again, it is a lot like the fire service, but even more concentrated — there was a real bond formed there.”
Friendship and brotherhood go far beyond the firehouse. For Mike Covert, another Louisiana Local 514 member, this companionship was found by using fire fighter values to connect with a professional caver and a primitive tool maker. During the show’s second season, set to air in 2018, Covert competes alongside two people who he otherwise has little in common with, forming friendships and bonds that are stronger than the elements they face.
After meeting up with his fellow contestants, Covert knew that the strengths he gained at work were enough to help see them through the challenge: “My skills as a fire fighter really came into play, and I found myself leading the charge at times due to my experience in search and rescue.” The father of three represents the strength and open heartedness of fire fighters the world over, despite the difficult circumstances.
He relied on prayer to see him through, saying “It was one of the toughest things I have ever done. The darkness was all-consuming and extremely confining. You lose all sense of time and you are extremely sleep deprived. I am glad I stuck it out, but I would not do that again.”
A transformative experience for all three fire fighters, “Darkness” is sure to be a thrilling, emotional journey for viewers too. Tune into Discovery Channel starting Wednesday, August 2, at 10 p.m. EST to follow along on a journey of survival, friendship and self-discovery.