My ears perked up as Deb described the weight machine sitting in her neighbor's driveway. "There's a sign on it that says Free," she said.
Free? This sounded like a job for the scrounge patrol!
Some people think that because firefighting costs so much fire crews have large budgets. This is generally not the case. And fire gear is expensive. A single pair of fire pants costs over $200. This doesn't leave a lot of room for extras.
Not having a kitchen, and often spending 10-16 hungry hours at the base, we rescued a barbecue grill from the dump. People bring their unwanted items from home: a mini-fridge, a rototiller for the garden. The hotshot superintendent lent us his dumbbell collection, with the caveat that we couldn't lose or abuse it: every time he walks through the hangar he looks suspiciously at the rack, making sure none are missing. The crew does most of the base improvements, welding a saw cage, spreading gravel, and digging trenches for a new phone line, to save money. We eye anything abandoned or unused, sizing it up for potential.
We sped out to the location of the weight machine, hijacking the weeds guy and his trailer. Sure enough, there it was, in working order and still free. We quickly loaded it up before the homeowner could change his mind. On the way back the weeds guy decided he didn't want his treadmill, so we took that too, rolling down the road with a mini gym on the trailer.
New fire pants can wear out in a single season. Some of the things we build or find will last many years. Ride on, Scrounge Patrol!