Monday August 14, 2006
We woke up before the rooster even took its morning piss and brought our gear downstairs. Plenty of waiting. Load duffel bags, wait, load rucks, wait, climb onto cattle trucks. They took us to the stadium where there was supposed to be a speech or ceremony of some sort. Instead, it was even more waiting, and lots of it. I don't know what happened with all of that, but eventually, we just got on the buses.
The ride itself was uneventful. When we came through the mountains, guys would stand in the aisles, taking pictures, and generally acting like they'd never seen mountains before. I'm from Montana. I wasn't at all impressed.
When we neared our destination, a huge column of smoke could be seen over a few ridges.
After a lot of hustle and bustle bullshit, we got our camp set up. Its not bad at all. We've got a tent city type thing going on here, and we each get our own. Civilians are running the chow show, so the food is actually pretty damn good.
We were told to pretty much stay in our area, and not to mess with the women. It was actually suggested that we not even bother associating with them at all. Makes me wonder what everyone else thinks of us infantry guys. Tomorrow we go out for some training at an actual fire site, but it should be pretty mellow. We were also told to bust our asses so that we can get all the "good" missions. To the north over the ridgeline, mixed in with the black sky is dark red illumination from the fire.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
I'm going to keep this short cuz I want to sleep. We woke up before the sun once again and put on our fruity uniforms and grabbed our gear. Due to some random holdup, we waited for a few hours, then took a long ride on buses. Long story short, we went out to the woods where it wasnt burning for hands-on training. All I have to say is that this is no joke. Wears you the hell out.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
More training, this time around an already burned out area. Skeletal charred trees like gnarled black toothpicks. Looks like a closeup of skin, where each hair is enormous. Smoldering holes blowing out smoke, radiating heat, and a campfire smell everywhere. The dirt and the ash have all mixed, and its like moon dirt. The slightest shift of a boot sends up plumes of the dust. When th eteam moves, you travel through thin walls of the stuff, breathing it in, building nasty black boogers in your nose, plus it mixes with the sweat on your face.
We took a horribly long clim up a steep hill through the ash, completely wearing us out, and we didn't even really go that far. Over the LT's radio, we hear chatter about someone in another team putting an axe through his boot. I don't know anything about who it was or how bad the injury was. We dug lines (basically a perimeter of dirt around an area so the fire can't spread).
Atop our mountain, we could see across the valley to the side of another. Seceral scattered columns of smoke were rising from the trees. Firefighters are badasses. This is hard work. This is blow-your-knee-out day in day out shit. Do this for a couple weeks and then try to complain about your job. My team has decided that our 'designated firefighter dude' is everything Chuck Norris wishes he could be.
There was one surreal moment when we were walking along a dirt road, and at the edge on our left, the trees gave way to a view of the valley. The sky was veiled in smoke, and in the middle of the huge cloud, the sun shone through, perfectly spherical and blood red. Where the smoke canopy ended, the sky was pink and orange, fading into a blue horizon that walled along the green valley. Normally that alone would be all sorts of scenic and artsy fartsy, but with the sun was completely behind that veil of smoke, bright red. Neato.
We've got a good setup here too. Trailers with showers, a new AAFES trailer, new phones (though I dont bother waiting in line) good food, an endless supply of water and powerade. When you come back from the day's work, you have a brief team meeting, then you're pretty much off to take care of little things like eating, showering, and before you know it, its 10:00.
Thursday August 17, 2006
First actual mission. Mop up. Pretty tired. Earlier today, I had all sorts of similes and other poetics means of expression sitting in my head, waiting to be used, but its all gone now. I'm tired and grouchy. We did a good job out there, extinguishing little smoldering spots with the ferocity of barbaric death squads.
-Ok, I'm going to deviate from the crap I wrote in the notebook, and just use that as a basic outline for this.
See, we thought we would be fighting these huge infernos, like the movie Backdraft or something. Then each day we'd be brought out to some little Nature's Cookout. Mop up really says it all. When we actually DID see flames, they were campfire sized, except for on a couple other occasions. Someone would spot a little whisp of smoke and shout, "We got action!" Then a few of us would approach it, and beat the hell out of it with our tools. The ultimate goal is to mix cold dirt with the burning shit and not give it anything to burn, but we usually just went nuts and beat it like a compulsive gambler. Watch the scene from Office Space when they beat the crap out of the printer. That was basically it. Anyway, back to the crap I wrote.
A fire cut off our return route and we had to take a long winding detour route from hell. Barely into it, the bus swipes a pickup, and the guy standing by it does the mandatory You-Just-Hit-My-Vehicle-So-I'm-Going-To-Throw-My-Arms-In-The-Air-And-Complain routine, and we laughed at him. He had parked his pickup too close to the turn. Just after that, around a bend, the check engine light must have come on or something. We sat there for about twenty minutes, and I was already trying to decide which of my comrades I would eat first, when other buses passed us. Back at camp, the food was mediocre, something was screwed up with the girls showers, and the lines were ridiculously long.
I really have no motivation to even type all of this up. Its not really that cool or exciting, its all really anti-climactic. Maybe I'll add more later.