Sunday, July 10, 2011

Wallow Fire Part - 1

So I'm pretty sure it's been over a month since I've updated my blog! Let me tell you... I have been one BUSY GIRL!! So June 5th - 10th I had classes scheduled every day, ALL day for work.  One class was 4 days long!  This class was all about fire weather, which don't get me wrong is extremely important and was even rather interesting until about the middle of day 3 when this guy came to teach the unit on fuel moisture... pretty sure he repeated himself like 8 times with everything he said (NO EXAGGERATION THERE WHATSOEVER!) and he went over time so not only did we have to be to class early that day but we got out late too... kind of annoying.  So the next day, the 9th was the big "final exam" which you had to pass in order to get credit for the class.  I was a little nervous for it, but me being me, studied my huge government issued fire weather behavior book for the class anyway even though all of the tests I had ever taken for any of my other classes were all open book.  The next morning we had one a couple more units to cover before we took the "final exam."  During our first break I check my phone and I had a text message from Chad (one of the guys on my crew) and Zach (my engine boss).  Both telling me to call either of them when I got on break. I figured they just had a simple question about where I had put something on the truck when I organized it or something, but instead they asked me if I had my red bag ready.  Now when you're asked if your Red bag is ready it can only mean one thing... First off - a red bag is this huge red bag (excuse the redundancy :P) that you pack to last you 14 days out on the fire line, stuff like a sleeping bag, pillow, clothes, etc.  Now when someone asks if your red bag is ready it means you're going to an out of state fire!! I never got to go out of state last year on a fire, but for some reason I had this feeling this year when I was packing my red bag that I needed to pack it a little more thoroughly than usual.  I tried to argue with myself trying to convince myself there was NO WAY we were ever going to get to go out of state this year, especially being 11th on the list of over 25 trucks to go out of state.  Well I will definitely  trust my little "hunches" I have in the future, that's for sure, because as soon as I was finished with my class I was headed to Arizona!  I called my parents on my lunch hour to tell them that I was leaving that afternoon and that I wouldn't see them for a couple of weeks.  Mind you my parents had been gone 2 weeks already and were on their way home, but wouldn't be there until the morning after I left.

So after I finished my test, 3 other guys from my yard, who were also taking classes, drove back to the yard and got all of our last minute things together before we left.  My engine and 2 other engines had already left and we were supposed to catch up with them in one of the chase trucks (aka a pickup :D, government jargon can be kinda weird ha) On the way down we saw at least 4 or 5 other engines from the Boise district who were also headed down south to go fight the raging fires down south.  The fire my engine crew was headed to was the Wallow Fire and it had been raging since Memorial Day weekend and was well over 300,000 acres.  I was kinda nervous but super excited! :D

On our drive down through northern Utah one of the guys from my crew asked me a rather interesting question kinda out of the blue.  "Kelsee are you a hardcore Mormon or one of those Mormons who just goes with the flow?" (Side note - Although I might live in a highly populated LDS area most of the guys that I work with are not LDS and are a little rough around the edges) Ha, I didn't know what he exactly meant by that.  So I asked him what he thought I was.  He thought I was a hardcore Mormon which he labeled as someone who doesn't under any circumstances, drink, smoke, cuss, watch R-rated movies, etc.  After being around  people who drink and smoke and cuss ( A LOT ) it has given me such a great perspective on my life to know how much the gospel and living the commandments has had such a positive effect on my life.  I like the guys that I work with, they are good people, but I am definitely glad I have the chance to go back to BYU in the fall to reboost my association with people who have the same beliefs and standards that I do.

We finally met up with my engine in Spanish Fork, UT and then kept heading south through Price and onto Moab where we stayed the night.  The next morning we headed back on the highway across the desert of Southern Utah and Arizona.  I can honestly say it was the most boring drive of my life! I thought that Southern Idaho highways wer bad with all the sagebrush and the mountains in the distance, but that is because I had never been through Arizona.  We drove through a handful of little towns where the population couldn't have been more than 30-50 people!  I don't know how these people live out there in the middle of the desert out in the middle of nowhere! When we finally got back on the freeway for a little while we stopped at this gas station and asked the cashier where the best place to eat was.  She told us the Route 66 Diner, so naturally we went in search of this place and this is what we found....

This little podunk diner, I mean single wide trailer with an addition on the front.  It probably one of the most interesting dining experiences I've ever had in my life.  You walked in (very carefully avoiding the top step that looked like it was going to cave in at any moment) and sat down at these booths that were tiny.  There was also thick strips of plastic over the windows and half way through the room to keep the air conditioning from escaping out the thin cracked windows.  One of our waitresses was I think like 10 years old too.  Haha, all in all it was pretty good food, even though they didn't know what fry sauce was.... even though we were only a couple hundred miles south of Utah.

On the road again... just a couple more hours and we started to see smoke from the fire ahead of us.  As we got closer, we began to climb a bit in elevation and soon we were in the mountains with tons of Ponderosa Pine trees.  When they had told me we were coming to Arizona, I had pictured the desert with 110 degree weather with cactus and scorpions, not the steep mountains with tons of pine trees!  We passed through a town that had been evacuated and the National Guard had even been called in to set up road blocks and keep the roads blocked from civilians... let's just say I had never NEVER EVER EVER been to a fire this big before!  A 300,000 acre grass fire is a pretty big fire but a 300,000 acre forest fire is huge and off the charts!

We pulled into the main camp for the District we had been assigned to, which was actually in New Mexico (I can officially say that I have been to every Western state now :D ) got checked in, ate dinner, set up our tents and went to bed.  The next morning  while Zach and Chad went to briefing to receive our assignments, Travis, Brandon (the other 2 guys on my crew) and along with a few others spent over and hour trying to break into our chase truck because Chad had locked the keys in the truck the night before.  After much effort we managed to get the keys out of the truck and went on our way toward the fire line.  Zach had been assigned to be a strike leader (leader of a group of engines).  So for the first few days we were assigned to work in this canyon doing structure protection on a few of the houses down in the canyon.

I'm just going to say right now that one day I am going to own a house like this up in the mountains for my own private get-a-ways. This house was absolutely beautiful! Up on a hill overlooking the valley below and the mountains!

I think this was probably my favorite part about this house!  Yes.. this is a picture of a shower that was built in off the back of the house! It was such a pretty view from there too! And hello it's totally secluded on the top of this hill, could you think of a better way to take a shower! :D haha.  They even left soap and shampoo out there.  After a few days of not showering, all of us were joking about maybe coming back up to this house and using "the shower" haha.

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