Fires? What fires?

Stories, anyone’s stories, are precious. We like them best perhaps when we are sitting around a campfire just before bed, not that I have a lot of experience with stories around the campfire. Heck, I got kicked out of the Boy Scouts. I did, nevertheless, learn how to start a campfire. I also learned how to extinguish a campfire that got away and became a wild fire. (To be clear, it wasn’t my campfire, I was on the fire fighting team sent in to fight the fire.) I did, however, work for the Forest Service one year when we started 29 “controlled burns” and 26 of them became wild fires. We fought those fires, after we had started them, moving up hill from the roads to the top of the mountains.

Getting to the top of the mountain was difficult work, as you can imagine. We fought this particular fire using the back fire technique. That is, you start a fire around the edges of the wild fire. It moves inward towards the wild fire depriving the wild fire of combustible material. We had backpacks full of propane gas on our backs. (Discharging the gas created VERY cold cylinders.) Our faces were covered with soot and our lungs were full of the smell of propane gas once we achieved the top of the mountain. After getting to the top I felt tired but pretty good, covered with soot and sweat and breathing deeply to get the smell of propane out of my system. I looked at the older fellow who was working next to me. He had chewing tobacco spittle running down his chin. Looking at me he held out the plug and said, “Wanna chew, kid?” My response was immediate and unpleasant.

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