Saturday, January 17, 2015

If the fire doesn't get you, this stuff will

Sometimes rookies think all they have to worry about is the fire itself.  But there are other things lurking, things we don't teach them about in fire school.  It's good that we don't, because they might run away!  Here's just a few:

Unfriendly plants.  Trips to northern California are widely dreaded because of the widespread poison oak.  When it burns it even gets in your lungs.  The people who seem to be immune (often Native Americans) are looked on with envy, and often sent in to clear the vines.  A fall can be a disaster in a desert fire, if ill-timed and in the vicinity of cactus or yucca.

Wildlife.  Danimal had a sinking feeling as he looked out of the helicopter at the rappel spot and saw three bears frolicking in it.  Sure enough, they returned later on to slap at Brandon's pack, which he had carelessly left at the top of the fire.  B., sleeping peacefully in a hay field, awoke to wolf teeth close to his nose.  Thinking quickly, he punched the wolf in the face, earning legendary Chuck Norris-like status among his fellow firefighters (and an interesting write-up on the subsequent medical paperwork).

Sickness.  The "camp crud" spreads through fire camps faster than the fire does through the forest.  The medical tent becomes the hot place to be.  People who famously declare that they won't get sick because they "have a great immune system" usually get it the worst.  J. got Legionnaire's disease from a suspect hotel on his way back from a helicopter assignment and had to quarantine himself.  Tummy troubles run rampant, exacerbated by poor porta potty hygiene and questionable food.

Icky bugs.  We eyed K., one of our fill-ins and a known carrier monkey, when we learned that someone on his regular crew had picked up scabies somewhere and the crew was fumigating their vehicles.  Luckily he seemed to be uninfested and was allowed to stay.  Scabies have also infected whole camps when Supply personnel neglect to wash sleeping bags and then  hand them out to unsuspecting people.  It's enough to make anyone feel itchy.

Strange people.  Homeless camps in the woods, residents brandishing shotguns, drunks wanting a helicopter ride,  growers protecting their marijuana crops; we see it all.  Fire seems to bring out the weirdos.  (It should also be noted that if firefighters tend toward oddness, the job makes it worse).

If that's not enough, there's also ghost sightings, risky drivers (one earned the name "Oil Pan Angie" for good reason), and creepy motels where the same key opens every room.  But I'll save that for later.  We do want some applicants for our seasonal jobs.







7 comments:

  1. Sure do wish I was younger so I could apply for one of these great jobs in such ... interesting locations ... with interesting people! Compelling ad copy here, amiga!

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    1. Thanks AA! It's been interesting, that's for sure!

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  2. Yikes! Better yet, you want the seasonals you've trained to come back again even all these "great" fire experiences.

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    1. If we get them young enough, they usually don't know better!

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  3. Ahh yes, the dreaded poison oak. I've come in contact with that stuff a couple of times - not fun at all. Better not let next year's potential seasonal workers read this! :)

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    1. Firefighters often end up in the hospital after breathing it when it burns. I'd rather take my chances with the gun toters.

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  4. Now, for the post that tells us about some of the beautiful places and special things you have seen and done while on firefighting duty!

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