Monday, May 20, 2013

Day 1 as a Hotshot Wildland Firefighter

For the first day on the hotshot crew we went through the physical requirement tests.
25 push-ups.
40 sit-ups.
7 pull-ups.
3 mile pack test with 45 lbs.

In some ways this year's pack test was the hardest one I've done. There were only old school weighted vests that had these huge pockets with lead plates in them. I tried to pick one of the smaller ones (I don't think any of them were smaller than any other), but I still ended up with a vest that looked like a dress on me. I waited until the very last second to put the vest on because 45lbs is a lot of weight when you're only 118 lbs yourself. Unfortunately, the buckles on my vest were all broken, so once we got started I had to hold the vest tight with my hands to keep it from flapping all over the place.

In other ways, I think this year I performed the best I ever had on the pack test (particularly when you consider how uncomfortable my vest was...). I finished at 41:17, and I only got one blister from the whole thing. I tend to get blisters every year from the pack test even though I haven't had blisters from anything else. Maybe it's just that speed walking makes my foot rub the wrong way in my shoe?

Overall, it was simple and easy. I finished my first day feeling strong, confident, and happy.

Fire Away!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Big Burn by Timothy Egan

Every wildland firefighter and every forester or Forest Service employee should be familiar with the history created by Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot. Every wildland firefighter should know who Ed Pulaski is and what he did during the catastrophic fires of 1910.

The Big Burn is a great way to become acquainted with all of these people and with the history of the wildfire fighting program as well as the roots of forestry in the United States. The Big Burn is about Teddy Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, the origins of the Forest Service and land conservation, and, of course, the great fires of 1910 (and in that order).

 I have a really hard time getting invested in history books. I'm a little ashamed of that fact, but I'm also proud to say that I finished The Big Burn and I enjoyed it. For someone who expected to read about wildfires, I was disappointed at the intense history and biography portions at the beginning of the book. It was hard to get into, but once I'd trudged through several chapters, I actually appreciated knowing a lot of the histories and biographies.

Since this will be my 6th season in wildland firefighting, I'm a little embarrassed that it's taken me this long to become familiar with the history of fighting fire in the United States. I knew that the pulaski tool was named after the guy that made it, but I never knew just what kind of man Ed Pulaski was nor the courage and leadership he displayed as he fought wildfires in Montana.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone looking to know more about the beginnings of wild land firefighting. The seemingly boring beginning is worth trudging through.

Know of any other fire books or outdoor/survival books you think I should read?

Fire Away!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Fire Season by Philip Connors Book Review

I just finished reading Fire Season: Field Notes From a Wilderness Lookout. I've had this book for a couple seasons (a friend gave it to me for my birthday) and I finally got around to reading it.

I don't know why I waited so long, because the book was awesome. Phillip Connors does an excellent job at sharing bits of history in an interesting way while exploring the beauties of the seasonal solitary life of being a wilderness lookout.

One of the advance praise quotes on the back says, "I don't know what to call this soulful book. Memoir? Essay? History? And I don't know how it manages to turn months of solitude into such a gripping quest with vivid characters, including one of the Four Elements. What I do know is that Fire Season both evokes and honors the great hermit celebrants of nature, from Dillard to Kerouac to Thoreau--and I loved it." ---J.R. Moehringer

I have to agree with J.R. on this one. The book was very well done. I love non-fiction sort of self-exploration types of books. This book keeps an excellent pace and spends just the right amount of time on history and background of the setting and on Connors's personal adventures and reflections.

The only qualm I have with this book is the title...and that's only because I'm jealous that Connors took the title Fire Season before I could get to it and then used it for a wilderness lookout book that had not so much to do with wildfire as it did with hermitage. I had hoped there would be some big fire as the climax of the book, and was disappointed not to find it. Regardless, the book was well done, and it intrigued me enough to pique my interest in becoming a wilderness lookout one of these seasons.

If you like good writing and have any interest in the wilderness then I recommend this book.

Are there any awesome fire books that you think I should read?

Fire Away!