Some say the world will end with fire.

Others say with ice.

From what I've tasted of desire

I hold with those that favor fire.

But if I had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate,

To say that for destruction ice,

Is also great and would suffice.

Robert Frost


"Good things come to those who wait, but, only the things LEFT by those who hustle." - Unknown (at least by me)

"Life is wonderful, without it you are dead." - Hy "Pete" Peterson - Park City and Kenecott Miner

"Don't worry about those people in your past---there is a reason they are not in your present." - Unknown

"Life's tough - it's even tougher if you're stupid." - John Wayne

"The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary!" - Vince Lombardi

"If you aren’t living on the edge, you’re probably taking up too much space.” ~ Attributed to Jim Whittaker by Doug ‘Swani’ Swantner, Alaska Smokejumper and Air Attack Base Manager (Ret.)

About Me

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I am married and have seven children and twenty grandchildren. I retired January 1, 2010 after working 39+ years for the Forest Service...NEW CHAPTER IN MY LIFE HAS BEGUN!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


For the past few days I have been thinking about the loss of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.  These were an elite bunch of firefighters that have lots of training and experience in dealing with wildland fire.  In order to be a hotshot crew they have to have lots of leadership training in the key positions and lots of experience fighting the worst kinds of wildland fire.

Through this process I have recounted many days in my life when I was fighting fire.  I did the fire line thing for sixteen years and got qualified to be a Division Supervisor, this position is responsible for a segment of the fire and is responsible for all of the resources assigned to that part and for the safety of all of them.  I worked hard to become an Operations Chief, this positron is responsible for all of the resources and firefighters on the entire fire.  

I tried very hard to get there but was finally told that there were way too many full time fire people ahead of me for the Operations Chief job and that if I wanted to continue fighting fire I needed to find another occupation.  The Incident Commander (IC) that told me this was one of the fire people who I respected the most---then and now.  I was crushed---he knew it---so he went way out of his way to help me stay in the game.  

I was brought into a fire where he was the IC as a field observer.  This position gets out on the fire and tries to figure out what the fire is going to do and how best to attack it.  The person reports back to the Plans Chief and the Plans Chief and Operations Chief determine where the next days resources will be assigned and what their assignments will be. 

The IC met me at Check-In, which was unusual then and unheard of today.  He told me he didn't need another Field Observer on the fire but he really needed a Supply Unit Leader.  I laughed and said I don't know one thing about being a Supply Unit Leader.  He asked me how long I had fought fire.  I told him sixteen years.  He said that was long enough to know what was needed and he wanted me to go into the Supply Unit on the fire and get trained up.  I went over to Supply, where two long term Supply Unit Leaders that I was well acquainted with were working.  It didn't take me long to figure out that I had been fast tracked by these two Supply Unity Leaders, the two Logistics Chiefs and the IC to get qualified.  

This was a fairly large fire in southern Idaho and it was burning like crazy.  It ended up being 3500 acres, a large fire for the times.  I spent the first two days working as an Ordering Manager, the person that orders everything for the incident.  The next two days I was the Receiving and Distribution Manager, the person that gets all the materials and gets them to where they are supposed to go.  There was nothing in either of these jobs that was confusing to me because I had worked for my Father in a grocery store and did these two jobs there all the time when I was growing up.  The fifth day I was put in the position of a Supply Unit Leader Trainee.  This was a new experience to me because I had never supervised anyone to do these jobs.  I had a lot of line experience in crew supervision and my two trainers told me it was the same thing I just needed to make the assignments and make sure they got done.  I worked as a trainee the rest of the fire and when the team went home they left me there as the Supply Unit Leader for the team that took it over to close it out.

The next year the IC picked me as one of the two Supply Unit Leaders assigned to his team.  I look at the training I got compared to the training required today to be qualified for this position and I am amazed that I got through it so easily.  Ever since this first fire I have felt that I personally could do more for the fire suppression effort in Supply than anywhere else on the fire.  I loved the job and stayed at it for twelve years.  I worked with some of the most gifted people in the world while I was doing this job.  Everyone on every fire knew me because they depended on me to get what they needed.  I knew most of their faces but never got all of their names down.  This was a period of my life where I got to train up a grundle of new Supply Unit Leaders---I had a ball and loved them all.

This takes me through the first 28 years of fire---there are 16 more to come someday.  


1 comment:

Nene said...

I've thought about those boys and my heart goes out to their families. I couldn't believe how young they were.