You’re very right about crew bondingâ€¦I’m the only woman on the crew; I’m a nerd (it’s not just my moniker) and a brainiac and not real good at fitting in. My crew, well, we’ve got the usual contingent of French Foreign Legion rejects, bad boys, fire junkies and seasonal bums; fire and EMS in the summer, ski patrol and snowmaking in the winter. A few family men, a few who haven’t quite worked out what chicks are for besides looking at in the bar. But somehow after a season of training and some nasty fires (our specialty is initial attack in seriously bad, bad terrainâ€¦our State Forestry assignment coordinator told us after one fire â€œI can’t believe you guys did thatâ€¦the hotshots would have told me to go to hell.â€) we’re kind of scarily tight. Makes it hard to get a dateâ€¦this town’s so small that I always seem to have at least three self-appointed big brothers within earshot. Sigh.
What you said in They Said about respect between crews was important and right-on in my opinionâ€¦we all have different strengths and weaknesses. My crew is not a HS crewâ€¦but we’re fast, we’re flexible, and we can respond anywhere in our area within two hours. We can operate in the field as anything from a two-man saw team to a full crew, and we’re very, very good at getting squads into nasty terrain where most other crews would, well, tell the assigning officer to go to hell. We can’t really do big project fires, we’re not really set up to go out every two weeks for an entire summer, we don’t get paid to trainâ€¦but we’re the best tool for a lot of jobs. Does that make us better than hotshots? Not really. We think we’re pretty impressive, though. Fire fighters tend to be arrogant; we do a very hard job, generally very well. We get a lot of people telling us we’re heroes (a pet peeve of mine; I’ll get into it later if anybody’s interested), and that tends to inflate the ego. HS get told they’re the elite of the elite; ditto jumpers. We’re trained to be self sufficient, too, and that combination makes it hard to ask for help, and hard to recognize when we need help.
I’ve watched (and swamped for) guy falling trees that were too much for them; too big, too hazardous, too burned out. I’ve seen some get away with it, and I’ve seen some move really really fast when lots and lots of tree didn’t do what they thought it was going to. Thank God I’ve never seen anybody get hurt that way; but I’ve sure seen some get scared. I hope I never see anybody head off to the Firecamp in the Sky that way. We all need each other is I guess what I’m trying to say; no single crew ever has the skill set to tackle every conceivable situation. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m not always as graceful as I could be when somebody more qualified than I tells me I’m getting myself in over my head; but I do try to listen, step back, and re-evaluate. I don’t want to explain to my boys that got patted on the top of the head by a sixty-foot pondo.
Nerd on the Fireline