Living in the midwest, wildfires are not something I know much about. My son however, goes to college in Montana and took a summer job fighting the fires for a private company that is hired out by the federal government whenever they are needed. They are needed now! Major wildfires are currently burning in Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Colorado to name a few. The dry hot summer is to blame. Lightning is usually the start of the blaze.
Ben has been working on the ground in water suppression. He is one of three guys in a water tanker truck. One guy drives the truck, a second guy hoses the fire, Ben then uses a pick axe and a shovel to break up the smoldering clumps on the ground, so the hose man can spray them again.
Because they are short on manpower, Ben has been working with a “Hot Shot” team the last few days. The hot shots are the special forces on the ground, with a chain saw strapped to their back, they work on the advancing line of fire to cut down trees, often while their burning, to try to create a line that the fire cannot cross.
His team worked all day yesterday in blistering heat cutting a fire line, foaming houses in the fires path, and spraying fire retardant, on foot, from a 35 lbs. tanks strapped to their backs. However, they woke up this morning to learn that the fire crossed the line anyhow. Sparks are often carried by the high winds cross even the widest fire lines.
They eat military style rations for food, and sleep on the ground under the stars at night. He tried a tent the first night, but the winds are so strong, even at night, that the tent proved worthless. He said he was really afraid of bears the first night he worked, but now he say’s he’s so exhausted at the end of the day he hasn’t even thought about them again.
The guys on the hot shot crew told Ben that he was seeing and experiencing more new things in the past few days, than most new firefighters see in 10 years.
Now that I know how much damage the fires are doing to homes, forests and wildlife I am deeply concerned. Good luck to you ,Ben and to all of the men and women fighting to put out the fires across the country. Lets all hope that they get a handle on the flames soon!