Sunday, December 11, 2011

big black boots

"Big black boots,
long brown hair,
She's so sweet,
with her get back stare"

-Jet, "Are You Gonna Be My Girl"


The right pair of fire boots makes you walk differently. They give you a sort of authority. You can't tiptoe around in fire boots. People can hear you coming when you have big black boots on your feet. If you want to, go ahead and stomp around, just because you can.

It took me 23 years to find these fire boots:


They're the Hercules Hot Shot, made by an Italian mountaineering boot company. They are as comfortable as a fuzzy sweater. I would wear them even if I didn't have to. Packing 70 pounds out of the McMillan Fire was a little less miserable because of these.

When I first started firefighting, I bought a pair of Red Wings, because a. I was poor, and b. I didn't know any better. They immediately stretched out, and I usually sported an interesting variety of moleskin patches and duct tape on my feet. I wasn't the only one though: on one fire, one of my helitack crewmembers reported that he saw a soldier doctoring his feet. His sergeant loomed over him.  "Who told you that you could have a blister, soldier?" the sergeant bellowed.

On my hotshot crew, everyone wore Wescos, a lower-heeled boot that made it a little easier to walk through the slash units we burned. I stayed with these for years, until a small group of firefighters started questioning why we couldn't use newer technology and wear hiking or mountaineering boots. I bought these boots by La Sportiva:



Suddenly, a wide variety of boots blossomed on the fireline. This bothered some people, the ones who are scared of change. Safety officers lurked in the woods with rulers to measure the height of these interloper boots. A ranger was heard to say that nobody wearing La Sportivas would be allowed on his district. Of course, my helitack crew made a point of wearing them every time we went there.

I recently found another pair of Hercules online for less than $100 (regularly $300). Score! So look out. That stomping sound you hear will be me coming your way, with happy feet.


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