111 Wildfire: On the Front Lines by Heather Hansen
Heather Hansen was embedded with the Station 8 crew in Boulder, Colorado for 18 months to two years. She learned all of the ins and outs to their training, lifestyle and fighting the fires themselves.
Heather talks about her time training in Western Colorado, doing the written tests and the work capacity test, running three miles with a 45 pound weight vest on. This is where she learned most of the "basics" to fighting wild land fires. She talks about the fires themselves from ignition to fuels and how climate plays a role.
I asked her about all of the numbers she used, giving the reader data to back up the different points she brings up from her reporting. I felt like it really tied the whole book together for me and gave it all perspective which helped me greater understand.
"All fires do not need to be put out." Heather describes the differences of a fire deep in the wilderness and a fire near suburbia. Actively managing fires is a way to mitigate dangers for those involved in fighting there fires over stamping them completely out.
Heather visited the Fire Science Lab in Missoula and was able to transform her learnings from this experience in her book on how science is helping in fighting fires and safety as well. They have had their blunders, but this has been a cutting edge tool for the advancement in wild land firefighting.
Different terrains can have different problems. Station 8 has fought fires from Alaska to Florida. Besides fire, she lists things like bear encounters, poison ivy and even a scorpion bite which can cause injury or hardship.
“When firefighters leave fires, the fires don’t leave them," Heather says about loss of life and near death scenarios. Resources are needed for wild land firefighters to cope with the scenarios that replay in their minds. Also, the time away from home can play a big role in relationship issues also.
Dave Zater is quoted in Wildfire, "Its kind of weird, if you have a fire that burns down a lot of houses, they have parades for you, but if you do a really good job and stop the fire, nothing happens and nobody remembers it.” Heather explains that smaller fires are overlooked because of the lack of severity, though those putting them out are approaching them with the same intensity as a larger blaze. These saves can limit the amount of time and resources spent overall and are a huge accomplishment for the crews.
Craig McDonald asked, "What are her thoughts on fuel reduction in the forests? What examples might she have on projects where the fuel reduction had a positive impact, and which might have had a negative impact?" This "sparked" some great discussion from Heather about examples from her book. Join the Facebook group to ask your own questions- facebook.com/groups/cascadehikerpodcast/
Wildfires covers the lives of the firefighters themselves and what it takes to be on top of the ranks in backcountry forest fighting. They are among the top five percent of the m most fit people in the world.
The second part of Wildfires is about Heather's experience in the field on the Cold Springs Fire in 2016. She recalls all of the things she learned and wrote about in the beginning of the book, seeing it all play out in real time. This part of the book really drives all of the aspects together in a well written account.
Aside from the book, Heather encourages readers to go beyond the Bookman look things up about fires. One of her self proclaimed "geeky" pastimes is viewing fires from above by NASA. We talk about this image specifically- nasa.gov/image-feature/goddard/2017/smoke-obscures-much-of-the-pacific-northwest
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Check out Whiskey Fever: https://www.reverbnation.com/whiskeyfever The song used in the intro is 'Tall Grass' from their album Gonna Wake Up This Whole Town.