Hello from the Upper Skagit Complex ICP, in the small village of Marblemount Washington, just outside North Cascade National Park. Where the mountains are ‘steep as a cow’s face’ and is no place for fire fighters. So the strategy is patience, point protection of Newhalem and Diablo and dams with very few fire fighting resources. The whole of the Northwest, California, Montana and the Great Basin is aflame. This will be a fire season to remember.
The year 2000 was an auspicious year for me; my youngest son Steven graduated from high school, as the System Admin on the Uinta National Forest we survived the infamous Y2K bug, and that year I took a status-check-in assignment with Tom Suwyn’s Great Basin Type II Incident Management Team on the Bruin Point Fire in Sunnyside Utah.
That assignment made all the difference in my life.
I met my husband on a team assignment at the first Utah Wildfire Academy, I found my dream job at the National Interagency Fire Center in 2004. Now fifteen years and two Incident Commander’s (IC’s) later, this roll will be my last team assignment. These people, my fire family, are THE FINEST people and fire professionals anywhere, hands down.
I don’t often remember specific fires, and my friends will tell you I’m always asking “where were we”, “what was the name of the fire ‘when'” , but I do remember hard work and long hours filled with laughter, and anticipation, and smoke, and sunrises, and tents, and rain (or not) and once or twice snow in August. I’ve traveled backroads I’d never have imagined existed, spent time in small towns and villages along desolately long desert highways or tucked in the bend at the end of a high mountain road.
I’ve joined in festivals and community parades and became breathless at the utter wonder and awe of mountains and deserts under night sky’s overflowing with starlight, oh, and the occasional weather balloon decked out with glow sticks … seen any UFO’s lately Gardnerville?
I am laughing outloud as I pull years and years of fire memories from my brain … how about the time we built that scarecrow out of fire clothes, put red glow sticks in the sack head for eyes, hid a walkie-talkie in the shirt pocket and stuck it under the stairs going into the Finance trailer … remember when we’d whisper into the other a walkie-talkie … we had a lot of jumpy screamers. LOL.
There were the nights Steve Robertson would play his guitar, and folks would sing after we closed up shop. How about Heidi and Linda’s yummy Blackberry cobbler, or the ice cream social and human bingo, I loved the 4th of July carnival and the hot shots 3 legged race with the kids in Duchesne … so much laughter.
There were times we had no showers or caterers, yes we were smelly for a few days and ate MREs, BUT I learned how to make a pop bottle explode with an MRE heater element!
There are sad memories too, of friends who are no longer with us; taken by accident, fire, and cancer: Jimmy Ashley, Spencer Koyle, and Dawn Elkington who are a part of our memory and always in our hearts.
I couldn’t put every picture of every memory in this post (mostly because they are home on dvds) but I just had to share the smiles and remember … before I say Vaya con Dios.