Monday, October 13, 2014

To Wildland Firefighters

To Wildland Firefighters:

Over the years that I have been writing this blog on aerial wildland firefighting, rarely a day or so goes by when I don't think about what you are doing to keep us safe whether you be on the ground or in the air. Regular readers know that I am neither a wildland firefighter on the ground, nor am I a licensed pilot, nor am I in a position where I provide direct support to wildland firefighters. While I have no direct experience fighting wildland fires and can not know "first hand" the dangers involved, I know that what you do is dangerous.

As wildland firefighters in the air you are flying at low levels and at slower speeds, often in turbulent conditions. You often fly where smoke hampers visibility. You might be flying in mountains or canyons which provide their own issues. You do so to provide support to those on the ground, working with them to contain the fire. You are aware of the danger involved in flying fires and you do this anyway because it is what you do. You fly fires. You might be in an air tanker, a helicopter, a lead plane, or perhaps another kind of observation aircraft. Then there are all those who support you and maintain your aircraft at your base.

If you are a wildland firefighter on the ground you face another set of dangers as you work to contain the wildfire. You could be part of a ground crew perhaps carrying a chain saw, or in a bulldozer. You might be part of the crew of an engine. You follow the 10 standard fire orders and the 18 watchout situations and LCES while fighting fires, following these orders and being alert for the watchout situations help you to stay safe. You carry a fire shelter. You wear protective gear. Even with all these protections, there is danger.

I don't want to forget those of you who are dispatchers, you work the dispatch centers sending crew and equipment to wildfires.

You are often away from your families for months at a time, with a few days here and there where you might be able to go home. If you are on a ground crew, you may be sleeping outside while you are working a wildfire. If you are flying an aircraft, you may be staying at a hotel. You form close bonds with those you serve with, a brother/sisterhood. When one of you dies, you grieve.

As I write this, wildfire season continues in California and elsewhere in the Western United States. Australia is gearing up for their Wildfire season. And there may well be other areas of the world gearing up for a wildfire season that I am not mentioning.

Where ever you are, I want you to know that I am thankful for what you do, whether you are on the ground or in the air. You keep us safe from wildfires. Stay safe out there. And know that I and many others care about you and want you to stay safe.

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