Thursday, March 13, 2014

Girl on Fire: The Beginning

This is Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, not me.  In case you were wondering.  I never look this good on a fire.
Before I was a firefighter, I was a park ranger.



I wore the Smokey Bear hat and a polyester uniform.  I led groups of slow moving tourists along nature trails, pointing out flowers I had frantically looked up earlier as I sprinted the route with a plant field guide.  I shepherded kids around who wanted to be "Junior Rangers."  I mostly liked it.  I loved living inside national parks, and there was always a group of people around to watch movies or do night hikes.  I thought I would probably do this job forever.



One year, the west was burning with even more ferocity than usual.  "Everyone has to take fire training," my supervisor said.  I was indifferent, knowing nothing about firefighting.  I handled the tools ineptly and suffered through the slideshow.  It didn't matter, because I was never going to do it, I thought.

But then there was a fire.  And you didn't say no, back then.  You went, with a group of 19 other people, some of them strangers, many of them just as clueless as you were.  We were a thrown together crew of rangers, trail crew workers, and fee collectors.  Somehow we made it work.
This fire was a pivotal point in my life, although I didn't realize it at the time.  It could have so easily gone the other way, if we had been stuck mopping up in a black wasteland, or stuck in a staging area.  But we dug fireline at the top of a mountain while a fire roared toward us, the flamelengths soaring 200 feet above the treetops.  We had to run from it, racing down a trail to a highway where we lay on the hot pavement and waited for transportation.  We held the line as hotshot crews burned from the road, and I tied pink flagging ribbon in my waist length hair.  A band came in to camp and we danced.  After 21 days we were sent to a dusty state park for R&R,  and then went back to the fire for another week. 
 I thought all fires were like this.  They're not, but I was hooked after that.  I spent one more season as a ranger, and then applied to a fire crew, and a hotshot crew after that.  I didn't really have a plan to become a girl on fire.  Like many good things, it just kind of happened.  I'm not on the road I planned to take, but it was probably the right one after all.

 
 


 P.S.  I'm not sure what's going on with the fonts in this post.  I got tired of fighting with it! Also I added a bloglovin button if you want to follow this blog that way!

6 comments:

  1. It's always interesting the paths we take to get to our chosen careers. You were lucky to stumble across an occupation that you love.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd be interested to know how you became an engineer!

      Delete
  2. You were a park ranger in Hawaii?! How cool is that?! But how interesting to see the transition...I wondered how you got to be in the career you are in ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! I worked at the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

      Delete
  3. A 21 day fire is quite a way to throw you guys in! That must have been massive. Very cool to see how you got to this point in your career. And you're way cooler than Katniss ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! Yes I thought it was big at the time. I think it was 20,000 acres. Since then I've been on much bigger ones, but it was huge for us who were green!

      Delete

I try to answer all comments, so comment away!