Fighting fire in Montana proved to be almost an entirely different experience than Alaska. Unlike the Joint Lake Fire, the Lolo Creek Complex was a large, Type I incident, with over 600 personnel assigned to hand crews, engine crews and air operations.
A typical day began before dawn when we boarded a school bus to take us into the fire perimeter. Wearing about 45 pounds of gear, our crew hiked up and down steep terrain and through thick brush digging handline, lighting burnouts and doing mop-up for for hours on end. By the end of the day, you’re exhausted and have plenty of dirt in your nails, ears and in places you didn’t even think possible. Despite the conditions and lack of sleep, our crew did all of this with a positive attitude and there wasn’t a day where our camp wasn’t filled with laughter.
I recently returned home from a 25-day fire detail on an Interagency Type II Initial Attack handcrew from Virginia. As the only female member of the crew and the fact it was my first fire, I had a lot of barriers to overcome and lots of information to learn!
Our first assignment sent us to the Joint Lake Fire, about 47 miles north of the Arctic Circle, in the Upper Yukon region of Alaska. Flying on small planes, helicopters, eating MREs, keeping an eye out for grizzlies, digging our own latrine, and camp housekeeping were all part of our job in addition to long days working on the fire line.
Probably one of the most meaningful experiences our crew had was to get to work with a local Native Alaskan Crew from the Village of Venetie. The crew not only had an incredible dedication to fire fighting, shared with us tips for setting up camp in the Alaskan tundra, and asked us to all sign their American flag, but shared fresh fish they had caught, a sign of gratitude and respect in their culture.
Our crew spent seven days spiked out on the Joint Lake Fire before we were reassigned to Montana. Stay tuned for a future post on our next assignment!
Latourell Falls is a waterfall along the Columbia River Gorge in the Guy W. Talbot State Park in Northern Oregon. This waterfall is particularly unique because it plunges 224 feet straight down over a massive wall of columnar basalt–some of the best formations in the Pacific Northwest–before cascading towards the Columbia River. Along the basalt columns framing the falls are a unique species of lichen known to exist in a very limited area of the Gorge, for only a few miles.
Meet Patty from the BLM-OR Eugene District. When Patty started working on forestry crews in 1982, she was one of the few women in the field at the time. She quickly earned a reputation for her hard work, good sense of humor and quick “woods legs” and has become one of the most respected people on the district. Patty uses her expertise to implement the layout of a timber sale based on GIS-mapped boundaries put together by an interdisciplinary team of specialists. Her role in the process ensures that riparian areas, wildlife trees and property boundaries are properly marked, helping protect important resources when the area is logged.