Things I Skipped Over

I have been on this fire assignment for 11 days. Tomorrow I go home. I have written exactly NO WORDS this entire time. Pretty weird for me. Usually I am scratching off some loquacious communications either here or in other venues and getting my words out. But for almost two weeks I haven't had any words.

Maybe it's the week I spent working in the information office for the Area Command Team. Maybe I was inundated with words from crazy dumb people and it coincided with the guilt ridden deadline for the newspaper that I was seriously underachieving. Maybe I was worded out for awhile. I don't know.

I certainly isn't lack of things to say. I have been working with characters of all flavors on the North Star Fire that deserve mention at the very least, and full chronicling at best. I've run the gamut of a head cold, an earth quake, at least five different division supervisors, an education in Army National Guard medicine and a work force fresh off the boat from Australia and New Zealand.

My days consist of an alarm that goes off (when my phone isn't dead) at 05:25 AM, me putting it off until 06:10, which is when I inexplicably wake up voluntarily every morning. I get up and stagger to the bathroom here that has flushing toilets AND running water to brush my teeth before I appear in the medical unit to save a few pre-breakfast lives. On a normal fire we'd be up and at briefing by 06:00 but this is not a normal fire, for which I am grateful.,

Instead our briefing is at 06:45 and I shuffle over with my coffee and wedge myself amongst the safety officers and branch directors and listen to the weather report and fire behavior predictions, before I moved with the herd into our division breakout and get the specific rundown for the geographic area where I have been assigned.

It's here that the division supervisor makes some joke about my hair or how many naps I will get in during a shift and establishes my identity for the rest of his crews.

Then we have breakfast, which is invariably eggs and some pork product. I have been skipping lately, because you can only have eggs and pork so many times before it's just enough.

After breakfast I go back to the medical unit, where I sit and regret what I have eaten for awhile, and take care of a few last minute fire guys who need their blisters wrapped, a dose of DayQuil, or some blue fairy powder before we all head out to the line.

A typical drive to the line from fire camp is usually 30-45 minutes. This fire is no exception, and the road to division zulu is a combination of paved and dirt, including some spots of knee-deep moon dust that will coat the inside of your truck and mouth with a pasty film.

Then it's sitting. Radio into the Incident Command Post that I am at the drop point. Tie in with the division supervisor so he knows I am near by. Check with the crews, hand out some dayquil, hand sanitizer and bandaids. And sitting. Watching movies, reading books, scanning the radio, ears perking at any variation of the word medic, medical, emergency, injury... A few times a day I get a visit from a task force leader or heavy equipment boss, looking for cough drops, nail clippers, checking to see which movies I brought to watch.

The best part of a fire is the characters you get to meet. Like Dale from Australia - who got a head cold and thought I saved his life with a little Mucinex. Or Zane from Colorado who was secretly a paramedic but working as a task force leader and funny as heck. On this roll there was PFC Sevarina Zinc - an army medic who stayed busy at the medical unit checking people for eye worms and sinus infections. Then her replacement was a special forces army Sgt Lynch who had done multiple tours overseas and probably could have ACTUALLY diagnosed eye worms and sinus infections. I had a division supervisor who loaned me A Picture of Dorian Gray when I ran out of books. And a contractor who waited anxiously for me to get finished with my two copies of Cosmo so they could abscond with them. There was the weird engine dude who came into the med unit every night for "Supplies", wearing his radio harness and radio, hard hat, safety goggles and headlamp. Because ALWAYS BE READY.

I feel pretty lucky to be doing this job - at least until somebody gets on the radio hollering for the line medic and it's up to me to figure out how to haul out a blown knee from a ravine about a quarter mile deep, or something worse. I am thankful that I don't get a lot of the worses - I am perfectly content to deal with ankles and feet and arm gouges and spider bites and not have to see someone's career (or worse) end before my eyes. I don't need that kind of excitement. I get enough waiting to see which division supervisor finds my hiding spot and hangs out with me all day.


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