(A view of magical Mt Shasta in all her magnificence
after leaving the McKinney Fire)
Sunday, September 18th, 2022
Run 3 is complete and I’m standing by to be dispatched for my 4th roll. This assignment was on the Rum Creek Fire near Grants Pass Oregon. Our fire camp was near a small community called Merlin. As of our demobilization from this fire, it is 83% contained and evacuation orders have been lifted for the surrounding communities.
Although this was a relatively small fire, it was no less dangerous. There was a fatality on this fire: a firefighter was killed after being struck by a tree. May he rest in power. Falling trees are one of the biggest hazards on wildfires. After trees are burnt and we move into the black zones for mop up, simply bumping into a scorched tree or a gust of wind can knock them down, and their looks can be deceiving. There were a few instances of close calls on my crew with snags and widow makers falling near us.
This run was particularly difficult for me as I got off to a rough start. I strained a muscle in my back and was in excruciating pain to the point where I almost tapped out, but I decided to work through it and it seems inactivity actually makes it worse and powering through the pain actually made me feel better. Ibuprofen is my new best friend. I also started to develop some illness at the beginning of this run, and during a storm my tent flooded, and I accidentally spilled my pee bottle all over my tent. I was not a happy camper. We have to constantly pound water because we face constant dehydration, it’s a lot easier to just “water down” as we call it in a bottle amazon style then getting up in the middle of the night and stumbling around walking away from the campsite to take a piss.
Ascorbic Acid is also my new best friend. When I felt myself starting to get sick, it was recommended I take 15,000 mg of ascorbic acid (a form of vitamin c) daily. It has really worked wonders and it super charged my immune system: I quickly recovered from whatever I was coming down with. Constant inhalation of ash, smoke and dust makes us more susceptible to illness. Forgive my intimate and personal sharing of my snot rocket hacker, but this is what we deal with. We blow some grimy crud from our noses, and here’s a close up.
Another hazard we face constantly is taking tumbles when we are “side hilling” extreme inclines. I fell many times. When carrying the chainsaw or the dolmar (a dual gas and bar oil can) across a steep incline, its pretty much inevitable that you are going to take a tumble. On one occasion I fell and slid down the rocky hillside at least 40 feet. Falling with good form is crucial: you want to fall on your ass and back, because if you go face down you’re more likely to get a more serious injury, and it harder to control and use your feet and hands like a brake. Our tools are great to use as a brake also they help aid us in our hiking.
Resting Up at Lunch
As the oldest guy on the crew turning 40 in November, this has been quite an epic odyssey for me, but I always bounce back and keep up, even though most of my comrades are in their 20s. I’m still the master shredder with the chainsaw though. Despite all the discomfort and challenge, I truly enjoy what I am doing, and I am proud to serve our country and defend our mother earth. Its not about the money, its about duty, and I am called to do this from something beyond myself, I am willing to make sacrifices for the greater good.