The day the helicopter flies away is sort of bittersweet. On one hand, it means the season is pretty much over, and there's time to relax, wander a little farther from the base, and stop wearing fire pants every day. Still, I'm always kind of sad, because we like our pilots and mechanics, and because our reason for being a helicopter crew just left.
Two minions and I sat in the office trailer, doing tedious paperwork. We noticed the wind picking up (it's hard not to when your office is a singlewide trailer). Chatter on the radio ensued. Trees were falling all over the valley, downing powerlines. Several small fires broke out from the sparks and from misguided private debris burns. One quickly expanded to 40 acres.
We gathered our gear and went to help. This time of year, fires aren't as stubborn; with shorter days, cooler nights, and recent rainfall, it was easy to extinguish stray embers. An ATV with a water tank arrived to help, so we made short work of it, eyeing the trees as 40 mile an hour winds buffeted them. Two large green firs cracked loudly and crashed to the ground nearby. Not wanting to be underneath the next one, we grabbed our tools and got to stepping.
Today it's raining, and snow levels are expected to fall. That's what firefighting is like in the mountains. One day you're chasing fire, and the next day you're hiding from the storm.