Stories, Learning & Place

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Summer medic on wildland fires
   A change is as good as good as a rest

I’m spending much of my summer working as an Incident Medical Specialist on wildland fires in the West—a medic on forest fires. It’s a great change of pace. I just got back from 16 days on the Rattlesnake Fire in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. I was “spiked out” at the Shepp Ranch on the Salmon River and, for three of the days, at a remote “ranch” up Indian Creek.

No cell phones. No roads. On smoky days, no helicopters. Most transportation was by jet boat and nearly the only communication was hand-held radios, which allowed us to talk to others on the fire.

In some ways it’s the opposite of classrooms, which are overconnected sytems if ever there were such things. There’s so much communication going on that it’s hard to think.

The crew I spent the most time with was a Zuni Hotshot crew from New Mexico. A very respectful and hard-working bunch. Up at 5:30 every morning and then working until dark, which in the north country this time of year is after 9:00. The fire is more or less uncontrollable, so the work is mostly point protection: clearing brush and timber near buildings, lighting backfires, setting up pumps and sprinklers. The fire will burn until rain or snow puts it out. The country is too steep and too remote to be contained through any practical efforts.

It’s refreshing to be outside all the time, without news, internet, meetings, phone calls, bills and a thousand household chores. Just a book or two.


Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 08/05 at 06:55 PM
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©2007 Michael L. Umphrey
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