Dirty August happens when you've been working long hours on fires and there's no end in sight. It's when tempers flare and people's feelings get hurt easily. It's when the whining begins, when people start to want days off, when the true fire season in the northwest usually begins.
My crew still rolls in to work early looking somewhat eager. They realize that the lack of sleep and rushing around combined with long periods of inactivity while waiting for smoke to appear will translate into money that will help carry them through the winter. "We only have seven paychecks left," one says, flipping through her Smokey Bear calendar.
Around the forest, though, some people are starting to falter. Gossiping is rampant. Mysterious new policies appear, yet cannot be substantiated in writing or even quoted. Firefighters' decisions are questioned by those who haven't set foot on the incident. It's Dirty August at its finest.
And yet. There is new snow on some of the mountaintops as we fly down the reservoir. People are starting to get ready to go back to school. Burn periods are starting to shorten.
Dirty August can't last forever. And when it's over, we'll look back and remember the fires and the flights we took over the wilderness, not the backstabbing and attacks of the crazies that occurred. Summer is slipping away faster than we can imagine. It's time to savor its sweetness before it's too late.
|The reservoir through the helicopter window|