As a new firefighter, my first glimpse of a camp was sort of overwhelming. Our school buses rolled to a stop outside a miniature city, complete with a caterer, showers, and 3,000 people in it. It was bigger than the town I lived in. Little did I know that I would experience many such camps in the next 30 years.
I soon learned that camp was not a place most people desired to be. "I had to get out of camp," people on overhead teams are often heard to say as they escape to the fireline. "They're moving the camp to the helibase!" helitack people often exclaim in dismay. Camps can be noisy, with generators, vehicles, and people talking loudly on their cell phones. They are often a hotbed of disease: the "camp crud" is well known and feared, sending sniffles and hacking throughout the crew. Someone always seems to set their tent up right next to yours and inevitably begin snoring. There are porta potties. You hope the food is good, but sometimes it isn't, or it's so late you have to choose between sleep, food, or a shower.
Meetings start early at camp, sometimes at 5:30, and if you're part of the overhead team, they can go late into the night as you rush to get paperwork completed for the next day's operations. There are meetings to plan meetings. If you need something like batteries, there is generally a supply unit. Beware to the crew that tries to keep a returnable item though, because they will track you down and make it difficult for you to leave until you produce it. These days there is usually a weed wash station to prevent the spread of noxious plants, and sometimes an enterprising T shirt vendor encamped outside the gate.
For me, the best fire camps are at the helibase or on the fireline. You miss out on hot food much of the time, and there aren't any showers or medical tents to grab moleskin or bug spray, but in exchange you can pitch your tent far away from other people and look at stars at night instead of the lights outside of the mess tent.
|I was fortunate to find this place to camp once. I jumped in the river after every shift.|
|Camping by my helicopter. I was the only person out there at night.|