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Fri May 8, 2020, 08:09 PM

 

As a former Forestry Dept. fire-fighter, this scares the shit out of me.

Fire season is upon us, and everyone living in the western U.S. knows what that means. The fires are going to come. Despite increased pressure from climate change and more people moving into boundary areas, the various agencies charged with wilderness fire-fighting do an admirable, sometimes heroic job. USDF green is one of the uniforms I will be forever proud that I wore. (along with Coast Guard blue).

What most people don't know is what a fire camp is like. They are crowded, hot, dirty, dry, full of toxic air (smoke, retardant, diesel, and just plain BO). Social distancing is impossible. Proper sanitation is impossible. Water (for anything other than drinking) is rare. Fire-fighters are crowded nut-to-butt, and are constantly trading equipment with strangers coming on or off the line. The idea of 20 sec hand washing is laughable. (3 min showers every 3 days when I worked the Santa Cruz "Blue Mountain" fire, and a wet wipe before meals or honey pot visits). That water has to be hauled up 50 miles of bad dirt road, with traffic jams.

Oh, and latex gloves and paper masks are out, except for camp, because of that pesky fire thing.

Now, wilderness fire-fighters DO self-select for people who are healthy and risk tolerant, and because fire season doesn't coincide with flu season, this hasn't really been a major concern. Now things are different.

Add to that the complete nightmare of an urban/wild boundary fire (cf. Paradise, CA), and trying to help hundreds, maybe thousands, of fire refugees without the usual FEMA/Red Cross shelters and food kitchens.

I know this is only one permutation of the times, and probably not the most important, but it IS important. Forestry (fed or state) will not get another dime. tRumpCo wants to see the west burn.

Keep them in mind, they are, along with the infantry and ER nurses, true front-line. Our fire-fighters are hard-core heroes, doing their job because it's needed. Find out what the front line fire grunts in your area need, and help if you can.

To anyone who is going to strap on a Pulaski and a piss-bag this summer, I salute you, and I wish I was there.

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Reply As a former Forestry Dept. fire-fighter, this scares the shit out of me. (Original post)
SinisterPants May 2020 OP
niyad May 2020 #1
Haggis for Breakfast May 2020 #2
sweetapogee May 2020 #3
SinisterPants May 2020 #4
panader0 May 2020 #5
PufPuf23 May 2020 #22
Brother Buzz May 2020 #27
PufPuf23 May 2020 #28
alwaysinasnit May 2020 #6
Devilsun May 2020 #7
SinisterPants May 2020 #8
Ferrets are Cool May 2020 #9
Grammy23 May 2020 #21
Ferrets are Cool May 2020 #26
LisaM May 2020 #10
mchill May 2020 #11
DENVERPOPS May 2020 #12
SinisterPants May 2020 #14
Hekate May 2020 #13
bluecollar2 May 2020 #15
uncle ray May 2020 #16
SinisterPants May 2020 #18
MontanaMama May 2020 #17
SinisterPants May 2020 #19
MontanaMama May 2020 #20
SinisterPants May 2020 #23
PufPuf23 May 2020 #24
Baked Potato May 2020 #25

Response to SinisterPants (Original post)

Fri May 8, 2020, 08:18 PM

1. Welcome to DU, and thank you for your most enlightening post.

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Response to SinisterPants (Original post)

Fri May 8, 2020, 08:28 PM

2. I live in Washington State and I hadn't even thought about this one.

Thank you for the post, SinisterPants, and for the heads-up.

Wildfire here in my state is a frequent, recurring nightmare. I have always admired those smoke-jumpers and we have a post near us. I WILL be contacting them soon and asking them what they need.

Bless them all. Our better angels, firefighters/paramedics/EMTs.

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Response to SinisterPants (Original post)

Fri May 8, 2020, 08:38 PM

3. I'm a firefighter

I'm a firefighter and a member of my states Forestry crew. I take the Pack out test every year that allows me to respond out of state.

Maybe you do things differently out there but here on the east coast we don't fight wildfires shoulder to shoulder. When I work a line I'm 15-20 feet away from any other individual. We can carry extra PPE and don it if necessary but so far it hasn't been a problem.

Our season started with a bang and much earlier than usual but has turned into a bust. Stay safe out there.

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Response to sweetapogee (Reply #3)

Fri May 8, 2020, 08:52 PM

4. Maybe I'm behind the times, or maybe it is different in the east...

 

It was 30 years ago for me. We called them "Jump drills" the crew needed to be at the airfield in two hours with full kit.

Line spacing sounds about the same, between 10-20 ft. spacing depending on terrain and situation.

It's the fire camp, not the line, that has me worried. I've been in camps with 1500 fire-fighters, and another 1000 prisoners doing mop-up, in hideous unsanitary conditions.

In any case, thank you for what you do, and stay safe as well.

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Response to SinisterPants (Original post)

Fri May 8, 2020, 09:03 PM

5. Never worked on a fire crew but I spent quite a while in the Oregon woods

as a thinner. We were required to carry a large red box with us, (that
we made) with shovels and picks and a back pack water pump. Later
I planted and used a Pulaski. I had a mailman type of bag full of seeding fir trees.
Three steps, swing the Pulaski, and stick a seedling in the hole, push the soil
back with your boot.

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Response to panader0 (Reply #5)

Sat May 9, 2020, 12:12 AM

22. You used a hoedad alternately called a hoedag

for tree planting, not a Pulaski.

A Pulaski is a fire tool with a pick on one side and a axe blade on the other.

A hoedad is like a very long bladed hoe (they come in different sizes) that is hit into the ground and rocked to make a hole for planting bare root or container seedlings.

Hoedad



Pulaski

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Response to PufPuf23 (Reply #22)

Sat May 9, 2020, 01:52 PM

27. Interesting back story about Ed Pulaski - He was a hero before he designed the Pulaski

Great Fire of 1910

On August 20, 1910, Pulaski was credited with saving all but five of his 45-man crew during what is known as the "Great Idaho Fire," the "Great Fire of 1910" or the "Big Blowup." It had been unusually dry in 1910 and forest fires were rampant across the northern Rockies. Pulaski was supervising crews on the west fork of Placer Creek, about five miles south of Wallace when the fire suddenly broke out of control, overwhelming the crew.

Drawing on his knowledge of the area and of the dynamics of forest fires, Pulaski led his men to safety in an abandoned prospector's mine. After ordering his crew into the mine tunnel, he threatened to shoot with his pistol any man who left. Lying prone on the tunnel floor, all but five of the firefighters survived, though Pulaski himself was temporarily blinded by the fire and smoke. The two horses with them died from smoke inhalation. The mine entrance, now known as the Pulaski Tunnel, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Pulaski remained with the Forest Service until 1929, though the great fire's smoke and flames had damaged his lungs and eyes; during that time he petitioned the government for money to care for the graves of the dozens of firefighters killed by the 1910 fire, and for compensation for his wounds.



The photo above and below shows the Nicholson Mine entrance that US Forest Service Ranger Ed Pulaski used to shelter and save 40 out of 45 of his group of firefighters battling the Great Idaho Fire of 1910. That fire led to the expansion of the US Forest Service, and many other major changes in the way forest and wildland fires were fought in America.

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Response to Brother Buzz (Reply #27)

Sat May 9, 2020, 02:37 PM

28. Cool. I did not know that history. Thanks. nt

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Response to SinisterPants (Original post)

Fri May 8, 2020, 09:17 PM

6. K&R Thanks for posting, and welcome to DU.

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Response to SinisterPants (Original post)

Fri May 8, 2020, 09:18 PM

7. I'm truly grateful for your service.

Hi SinisterPants,
I just finished a Tenant Improvement project at a Forest Service facility called NAFRI in Tucson. They were great people to work with. It was rewarding knowing I did a very small part in helping train people to fight these dastardly fires. Thanks again for your courage and commitment.

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Response to Devilsun (Reply #7)

Fri May 8, 2020, 09:31 PM

8. TY all for the welcomes...

 

I felt hesitant about starting a thread on the big board. While I'm not a new person, I am a new member, and was a bit worried about getting mauled.

But this strikes me as a board that I want to be a part of, and the welcome has been congenial ...so...thanks!

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Response to SinisterPants (Original post)

Fri May 8, 2020, 09:34 PM

9. I live in hurricane alley...

I feel the same kind of panic about this coming hurricane season.

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Response to Ferrets are Cool (Reply #9)

Fri May 8, 2020, 11:49 PM

21. Just thinking about shelters for those forced to evacuate gives me a headache.


It is even worse for special needs shelter with cots lined up next to each other across a whole gymnasium. Patient and one caregiver all jammed together. It is a virtual Petri dish waiting to bloom. I hope the powers that be are thinking how to handle this situation now.

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Response to Grammy23 (Reply #21)

Sat May 9, 2020, 01:32 PM

26. Based on the last few months, I truly doubt it.

Many states are treating it like it is over already.
I had to get out and about today and the amount of "unprotected" person was unbelievable...except that I live in a RED RED part of the country sooooooooooooooooooo, I suppose it was completely expected.

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Response to SinisterPants (Original post)

Fri May 8, 2020, 09:40 PM

10. I have been worried about this.

And we have had a dry spring here in Washington. Bad air and a respiratory disease going around.

I was hoping there would be somewhat of a mitigating effect from the decrease in pollution, but that's so temporary.

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Response to SinisterPants (Original post)

Fri May 8, 2020, 09:41 PM

11. I use to be a Fire Camp Slug

The one making the briefing and other “pretty” maps. Now retired, though living in the forest. The thought of fire season has pre-occupied me and my mind goes to fire crews in close quarters and how in the heck can they run a fire camp successfully? Social Distancing? How do you do that in an engine or crew bus or even cutting line? And then the overhead are generally older, though maybe not many over 60, unless like so many of my fellow retirees who have gone back as contractors, in camp. It’s a mess. The best I’ve seen out of DOI was a dusted off interagency plan to deal with the last pandemic...over 10 years old abd none of that applies when you have asymptomatic carriers. AZ and NM are in their fire season now...makes me wonder what they have done.

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Response to SinisterPants (Original post)

Fri May 8, 2020, 10:25 PM

12. We love you folks

We are already getting red flag warnings here in the front range of Colorado........and it's not even fire season yet.
Thanks for all you did!!!!!!!!!!

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Response to DENVERPOPS (Reply #12)

Fri May 8, 2020, 10:44 PM

14. I think I speak for most smoke eaters, we did it mainly for love...

 

(also, adventure and a pretty awesome paycheck in a good (bad) year)

Most of us, we loved our forests, and our grasslands, and our towns. It was almost a calling to protect them, (and the forests and towns in AZ, MT, NM, WA, etc., made no diff). There was no red state blue state bullshit, Texas was there for us, and we were there for Montana. That was just how it worked.

*Sigh* I am old and I miss simpler times.

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Response to SinisterPants (Original post)

Fri May 8, 2020, 10:28 PM

13. Out here on the California Coast, we know firefighters are our lifeline

Humble thanks for all you do

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Response to SinisterPants (Original post)

Fri May 8, 2020, 11:04 PM

15. Kick and rec!..n/t

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Response to SinisterPants (Original post)

Fri May 8, 2020, 11:05 PM

16. "we" really need to start isolating groups of key people.

firefighters are a good example.

we should be having critical individuals quarantine by themselves, or under very strict conditions such as with family, who all quarantine as a group. once 2 or 3 weeks pass, then they could be teamed up and kept together for a period with no exposure to anyone outside the group.

my workplace would be another good case, we are manufacturing ventilator components at a company of 100+ employees who are mostly going about their business as normal on the production floor. maybe 5% are wearing masks.

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Response to uncle ray (Reply #16)

Fri May 8, 2020, 11:26 PM

18. that's a good point...

 

Nurses and doctors are already doing this. I'm not nearly good enough at math to crunch the numbers, but your point is spot on. The only thing we can do right now is try to mitigate, and that includes self-isolation of critical workers.

It's brutal hard on everyone, but is there a good alternative?

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Response to SinisterPants (Original post)

Fri May 8, 2020, 11:19 PM

17. As a Montanan...wild land firefighters are heroes to me.

My late father was career USFS. In retirement, he drove busses full of fire crews between camps and helicopter communication trailers from hot spot to hot spot...he loved the wild land firefighting community so much. It was in his blood. Thanks for what you do and welcome to DU!

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Response to MontanaMama (Reply #17)

Fri May 8, 2020, 11:32 PM

19. Your dad might have driven me...

 

I was flown in for the Yellowstone fire in '88. I've never seen so many brave people gathered in one place.

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Response to SinisterPants (Reply #19)

Fri May 8, 2020, 11:44 PM

20. He very well might have!

He was there. That fire season was insane. I remember it like it was yesterday.

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Response to MontanaMama (Reply #20)

Sat May 9, 2020, 12:19 AM

23. No way to know, but I choose to believe...

 

that maybe your dad and me crossed paths doing something we believed in. After we landed in Helena, were on multiple buses. The drivers were a little crazy, but everyone wanted to get there YESTERDAY!

Those were proud days, I'm also glad I'm too old to do them again.

And when it was done, a hot shower, a home-cooked meal, a cold beer , and clean sheets sounded like the most priceless gifts in the universe. (sex wasn't even in the top 5...well...maybe #5)

I also served in the military, but not in combat, so this might be my only "band of brothers" moment. Thanks for helping me remember.

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Response to SinisterPants (Original post)

Sat May 9, 2020, 12:26 AM

24. You are correct SinsterPants in that firefighters live/work in crowded, stressful, and not

very sanitary conditions doing exhausting work in heat and smoke.

Sounds like Club Med for CV19 and I had already thought of this as every year seems to be a big fire year now.

I worked USFS from 1969 to 1985 and everyone physically able was required to go to fire training, take a stress test, and be what was then called red carded regardless of your regular job. I worked in timber management and post university was a logging engineer/timber sale planner and last a district silviculturist.

What was fun "in a if you like to set fires way" were the logging slash burns to reduce fuels and prepare for planting usually in Fall and sometimes in Spring.

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Response to SinisterPants (Original post)

Sat May 9, 2020, 12:06 PM

25. Recommended.

And welcome!

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