Ready or not, fire season is coming. It has already made it to the southwest, not as dramatically as last year, but there are a few fires, with crews staged throughout the region. One of my crewmembers goes off to Colorado as a safety officer. There is talk of assembling a 20 person crew from the forest.
This is what it's like: you make plans, but prepare to break them. You line up people to take care of your pets in case you get the call. You pack your bag. You put relationships on hold, so hopefully you have chosen someone who can understand. You go to work, not knowing if you will be back that night or three weeks from now.
Or not. Some seasons, you just wait. It rains, seemingly everywhere in the country. Helicopters on contract sit, barely turning a blade. Crews spend the entire season in thinning units, cutting and piling slash. You get off work when it is still light out. You get your money's worth from the expensive gym you pay for year round but usually don't use for four months straight. It doesn't feel quite right, but you can go on backpacking trips in July or put your kayak in the river. You get to savor the sweet deliciousness of borrowed time.
This is what I know about my 25th season: it could be a summer of fire or a summer of rain. It's a little too early to tell. Some people study the long term weather analyses like they can change things. They look at drought indexes and fuel moistures and make earnest predictions. They talk about the 6 year cycle: 1988, 1994, 2000, 2006: surely 2012 will follow the pattern. But despite all your wishing, you can't make lightning strike where or when you want it. Storms grow and then they die; forests are ready for the spark or they aren't. Sometimes the surprise is the best part: when you wake up to the sound of thunder and the night is lit up all around you.
So I'm going to wait and see. Either way, the days are long and full of promise. It's all starting.