The funny thing about firefighting is the unique experience you get with each encounter.
The first time I was on a fire, it was already a huge operation with hundreds of workers, aircraft, trucks, ect, on it that I didn’t even get to see the fire itself. I did get to help with traffic control and the landing zone for the Helicopters. The second day on that fire I was able to work with one of our department’s trucks at “The Pumpkin.” (A large orange pool for filling up water buckets.)
The next few times I was out, including this year, it has been actual, hands on, digging-in-dirt, playing-with-water, firefighting. A dirtier job I have never done. The first time I was out I got so messy I was almost unrecognizable. Since then I have learned the fine art of “No, your nose doesn’t itch.”
The nice thing about being a volunteer is the kind of people you get to work with. Generally they are A-Type personalities who are there for the right reasons: protecting people and homes, and learning safety with a dangerous situation. The hard part is realizing it is still dangerous even when we’re having fun, which we do. It’s a challenge and each time is different.
This last time, we were called out to assist another department on a 3 acre fire. We broke the transfer case carriage on our truck en route. We also had to wade through spring runoff in a river to get to the fire, which was a first in even our most veteran’s experience. Interestingly enough, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. My boots weren’t quite broken in yet, but as soon as I hit the water, they molded to my feet and now they are really comfortable.
The fire itself was about 3 days old. It had smoldered in the cold for a long time before it ever hit enough fuel to really get going. It was an easy day, and we were only there for about 2 hours before the fire was out, or mostly out, and we were on our way. Not to say it was a loss for us, any time we can get out and have a shake down is good experience. Each time we get better, more efficient, and skilled.