Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A firefighter in winter

I have to admit, it's sort of an oxymoron, unless you live in a southern state where they have some winter fires, or do prescribed burning.  "Must be pretty slow right now," people say cheerily; this is usually coupled with, "what do you DO in the winter, anyway?"

Here's what I do in the winter.  I try not to think about fires or firefighting.  If any wildland firefighters say they miss it in the winter, they aren't busy enough in the summer or haven't been doing it that long.

No longer tied to a base with a 5 minute getaway time, I can exercise where and when I want. I run without carrying a phone. I reacquaint myself with my gym.  I go snowshoeing in a local forest.

No more shapeless, unattractive fire clothes! I wear dresses and skirts and boots. I spend time with people who don't work for me.
I may or may not have bought some new boots.
I watch snowstorms instead of thunderstorms.

I bake stuff! These are chocolate peanut butter cupcakes. Yum!

 I actually have time to get my hair cut.

 Fire season will be back in 6 months, but there's no hurry. Right now it's time for the forest (and us) to take a rest.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

We'll Stand By You

I don't normally promote things on my blog, so feel free to pass this post by, and this blog will return to normal programming soon. 

I know a lot of firefighters lurk here, even though they never comment.  One of our brothers in fire was seriously hurt in a snowmobile accident at work.  He is currently in a rehab hospital out of state with no feeling from the arms down. 

There is a gofundme site set up to help his family with the expenses of traveling to see him, staying away from home, and other costs.  So far firefighters, his wife's co-workers, friends and friends of friends have rallied together to contribute a large amount in a short period of time.  I'm proud and honored to be part of this community that takes care of one of our own.
Luke and his family
Here is the link:

Sometimes life is difficult, but when things like this happen it reminds me to be grateful for all I have.

Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah, and happy Festivus! Thanks for reading this little blog.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The treadmill makes me sick

I have a treadmill problem.  Besides hating it, that is.  More often than not, if I am forced to run on that machine of boredom, I feel really nauseated afterwards; sometimes I've had to leave the gym because of this.  I suppose this is some sort of inner ear problem, but I prefer not to delve too deeply;  I'd rather run anywhere else than on the dreadmill.

I peered out the window this morning.  It had snowed the day before, but surely the enthusiastic neighborhood dog walkers had packed down the nearby trails.  The other option was the road, which I dislike almost as much as the treadmill.  So I put on ice spikes and headed out.

As I entered the woods I could tell it was going to be a challenge.  A few people had walked the trails, but they had only churned up the four new inches of snow.  My second clue was the cross country skier I ran into.  She looked at me quizzically; what was a runner doing out here if there was enough snow to ski on? I was wondering also, but I slogged on.

Because here's the thing.  Not only was I avoiding the gym, but there was something else that kept me from turning around.  A few days ago, a young co-worker was injured in a snowmobile accident at work.  Although we have friends in common, we are only acquaintances; we see each other often at the office and on the fireline, and he always has a friendly word for me.  Now he is in the hospital and he can't feel his legs. 

Running today was difficult.  I stumbled through the snow and footprints, feeling like I was running in slow motion.  But I kept thinking, he can't do this. He might never be able to do this again.  And I kept going.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

December? Is that you?

If you went outside not knowing what month it was, would you choose correctly?

I would pick April.  Temperatures near 40, rain, hardly any snow on the running trails? Hello,

Yes, I have a ski pass, but this weather is ok with me.  I know it can change at any time; a polar vortex could come barreling down on us next week.  I'll keep on trail running and hiking as long as I can.

And what does this mean for next fire season? It's too soon to tell.  We've had raging fires after winters with record snowfall, and hardly any after dry winters.  That being said, there was a 2000 acre wildfire east of here a few days ago.  In DECEMBER.  Is it really December?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Reaping, aka Application Season

This is the time of year that both aspiring and veteran wildland firefighters are hunched over computers, typing furiously on job applications.  I haven't applied for a job in awhile, but I remember the feeling:  what's a synonym for motivated? is this exaggerating too much? ok, what did I actually DO last summer?
If you don't know this website, rookie, you soon will.
The open period for the permanent jobs has closed and the temporary ones are not yet open.  The permanent job applications will be evaluated at an event called Fire Hire, which is sort of like a Hunger Games of employment, without, you know, the deaths and stuff.  The tributes, I mean applicants, will be rated on a number of factors and then fight it out be interviewed.  Only the strong (or at least the well-spoken) will survive.
"My greatest weakness? Um..."
The people who applied in December won't know till February if they get jobs.  While I'm somewhat sympathetic, I still remember how arduous the process was in the old days.  While today's applicants have the benefit of an online system where they can instantly upload documents and click on the answers to questions, we used to have to fill out a form.  A paper form.  On a typewriter, with white-out if you made a mistake.  There was also the lovely bubble form for which you needed a #2 pencil.  You never got to talk to the hiring official; there was no way to search for his or her name.  You mailed everything in, and you might get a letter in the mail saying you didn't get the job, or you might not.  There weren't that many jobs open then that you could actually apply for unless you had the coveted permanent status already, so if you made it through the process and landed a job you felt pretty good about yourself.  And grateful.
"Yes! We got jobs! Wait a you even know where Rawlins, Wyoming is?"
When applicants call me, I give them tips, kind of like Haymitch gave Katniss and Peta tips for the arena, without the alcohol of course.  Sometimes I spend 20 minutes on the phone with a stranger, because back then, nobody helped me. I just figured it out on my own.  I would like to tell them to relax.  If you keep trying, keep getting good experience, and aren't picky about where you go, you'll get a job.  But until then, may the odds be ever in your favor.

"OK, rookie, ALWAYS spell check! Got it?"

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Opting Outside

There was a lot of chatter this year about Black Friday and stores being open/not open.  It didn't affect me much; I do most of my shopping online (although this can be dangerous and I definitely fell victim to the "that's cute, I want one too!" syndrome).  As a person who has to work a lot of holidays, I can usually be found somewhere far away from any festivities.  But I could get behind the #OptOutside trend.

I think this idea was started by REI, which decided to close their stores on Friday and urged their employees to do something outside instead.  Regardless of its origin, it was a good idea.  Not that I need any urging to opt outside (well, maybe when I lived in Fairbanks and it was -40F I did).

On Black Friday I met my friend B. at a local trailhead.  It was about 20 degrees and a light layer of snow covered the ground.  Her two fluffy dogs raced around, excited.  We walked and talked and then had lunch.  It was low key, but opting outside doesn't have to be an epic adventure every time. It can be just a simple walk with a friend, catching up.

I didn't take any pictures, but this was the trail a couple years ago, on a walk with the same friend and dogs. More snow then.
I can't think of a time when, after being outside, I was sorry about it.  Of course, sometimes DURING it, I had some regrets: the time I went running during a tornado watch, or when a grizzly bear huffed at me from some huckleberry bushes.  Afterwards though, there is usually something that made it worth it, at least a good story.

We shouldn't have hashtags and stores reminding us to go outside.  Let's just go!