We have a resource order for a fire in Colorado. This is a surprise, and the crew rolls in from days off, dragging duffel bags. The flight will take about 6 hours and require two fuel stops. I look out the window at hot springs in Yellowstone, and hundreds of elk and wild horses on the mesas. There is a double rainbow somewhere in Wyoming. The pilot and I indulge in our serious addiction to Sour Patch Kids. Somewhere in Utah, three of my crewmembers are rallying the chase truck for the 1000 mile drive.
|Somewhere in Wyoming|
I know this is stolen time. It is late for fire season to be lingering in the mountains. The forecast for northwest Colorado is for rain and then a winter storm. This assignment is a bonus, a temporary reprieve from unemployment and off season jobs for the crew. When I get back, I will be sitting in a cubicle in the main office, doing the duties of the position above mine. I will wear regular clothes instead of Nomex and fire boots. I will go to meetings and attend mandatory training. I won't be flying near Aspen over hills splashed with gold, calculating the acreage on a fire burning quietly in sage and oak brush.
|Aspens near Aspen|
So I savor it, even the days when it rains and we sit at the airport with no flights scheduled. We run in the evenings. We cram into the ancient Buick courtesy car that threatens to strand us in town, and approach each new restaurant with hopeful optimism. I buy the Really Big Bag of Sour Patch Kids and soon everyone is munching on them. Currently friends at other fires are trying to get our helicopter assigned to them. Stay tuned. I am ready for the unexpected.