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THEY'RE BACK: Highway Thru Hell returns for second season
How does a tow-truck driver in small-town B.C. achieve television fame without moving or changing vocations?
That’s what happened to Jamie Davis, the man behind a Hope-based heavy-rescue company bearing his name and the star of Highway Thru Hell, the second season of which premieres on Discovery Channel tonight (Sept. 3).
Davis’ family has worked in the towing business for generations, but a chance encounter had a few years ago by one of his drivers, Adam Gazzola, changed everything.
“Adam, he actually was towing a guy in a five-ton moving van on the Coq,” Davis told KTW.
“They had a conversation and Adam asked him, ‘What do you do?’
“He says, ‘I work in TV — I worked on the show Deadliest Catch last season.’
“So, Adam says, ‘You should come up here in the winter time. It’s a gongshow — it would make for some really good TV.’”
At the same time, another one of Davis’ employees, Kevin Ritchie, was making a hobby of filming some of the wrecks the company worked on.
Ritchie passed those tapes on to producers to give them an idea of what Jamie Davis Heavy Rescue dealt with.
Davis said a five-year contract was signed “with us knowing nothing about TV.”
Now, with Season 1 in the rear-view mirror and the second season about to premiere, Davis said his life has been changed by the show’s popularity.
Over the summer, he said, a Jamie Davis crew went to Prince George for a job involving tugboats.
They ended up being hounded by fans at truck stops and in malls.
“Locally, in Hope, a lot of people already knew us, so I don’t think it’s such a big deal at a local level,” Davis said.
“But, the popularity of the show — you get noticed everywhere.
“It’s kind of a neat novelty at first, but simple things like going to a truck stop to get fuel, it’s hard to maintain that normalcy.
“A lot of people love the show, and you do your best to try to be polite to all of them.”
For fans who became familiar with Davis et al in the first season of Highway Thru Hell, the bright-red Jamie Davis Heavy Rescue trucks have become easy to spot on the Coquihalla and, sometimes, even on the streets and highways of the Tournament Capital.
“Our main operation area is from Hope up that corridor to Kamloops, Hope to Princeton and Hope to Lytton,” Davis said.
“But, we do some long-distance stuff as well.
“It’s not uncommon to see one of our trucks in Los Angeles or Toronto, believe it or not.”
And, now, the company has an office in operation in Fort McMurray, serving the notoriously dangerous Highway 63 in Northern Alberta.
Davis said the expansion east was necessitated by a drop in crashes on the Coq — something he attributes, at least partially, to the amazing wreck footage shown on Highway Thru Hell.
“One thing we know that’s a real fact is since the show’s come out, we’ve seen a substantial reduction in accidents,” he said.
“I think because of the focus of the show, we’ve seen a reduction in business.”
Davis said anyone who enjoyed Season 1 of Highway Thru Hell will like what’s in store with Season 2.
“Season 2, I think the production of the show becomes much more polished,” he said.
“And, for lack of a better term, the show takes some pretty wild turns.
“You think you’re in control of the business, and all of the sudden something happens.
“There’s a few things that came along in the way — the reduction in accidents, some new competition.
“We had a really hard year.”
SEASON 2 OF HIGHWAY THRU HELL
The second season of Highway Thru Hell premieres tonight (Sept. 3) on Discovery Channel at 7 p.m., and plays again at 10 p.m.
Last year, when the series debuted, it set the record for the highest-rated premiere in Discovery’s history.
For Season 2, the Jamie Davis Heavy Rescue crew will have to contend with some new twists, including a competing rescue company forcing Davis to look to take his operation in a new direction.
The show will also welcome a new senior driver, and producers have upped their CGI game for on-screen recreations of wrecks.
The season will also include four special “re-loaded” episodes with bonus content.