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Help launch Wayne Hare's new series, Civil Conversations, exploring the African American experience and race in the West!
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Fire in the west

Posted by High Country News (Creator)
4 likes

Hi all,

It’s been a while for sure, but I have a decent excuse. My fire season started way earlier this year than it usually does. This is only the second year that I’ve been out before mid-June and even mid June is early for me. Prior to 2016 I had only one time been out before mid August - when the shit is really starting to hit the fan around the west! But in both 2016 and 2017 I was out in mid-June, and this year in late May. Seasons are definitely starting earlier and lasting longer. In 2012 I was on a fire at my old alma mater, Rocky Mountain National Park in December! There was two feet or more of snow on the ground and snow in the air. But the fire was ignoring all of that and churning along at a brisk pace. Weird! I was happy that we were put up in hotels. I wasn’t looking forward to two weeks in a tent high in the Rockies in December. Not a fan of winter camping. And to be clear...no, I don’t stand beside 25 year olds and swing a tool. I establish and then run the medical component of fires. No heroism involved, and a decent addendum to a rather anemic federal pension. Rangering, which is all I wanted to do, and contrary to what you might think, is pretty low on the totem pole of Federal land management.

  I had two interesting stories lined up in the Bay Area. HCN was having a board meeting near there in Reno in June, so I was looking forward to knocking off three birds with one stone. But the so-called 416 fire – the engine number of the coal-burning, ember throwing, cute, old-timey, tourist train from Durango CO into the mountains that is suspected of starting the fire – called me away. Alas. 

Paul, my editor, has suggested that I write about what I’ve learned in these 9 months that I’ve been pursuing this project. Or possibly what I had learned before I even started this project that got me into it in the first place. I could do both of those from the kitchen table even during fire season. So...maybe. What I have learned, before and after, and what I feel about what I have learned is pretty personal, so gotta think about that one for a while. We’ll see. But I don’t think I’ll get out to San Francisco until after fire season. I KNOW there’s a story closer to home in Denver. But so far I have been totally unable to suss it out. (Is ‘suss’ even a word? Spell checker doesn’t recognize it as one!) I may just go there and wander around and make some contacts. If it took TOO long, I could always come home on my wife’s days off. Denver is only about 4 or 5 hours away.

  Anyway, in the meanwhile, I’m going to try and figure out how to attach fire photos to this post. I’ve been trying for 30 minutes!. 

Cheers!

Lou Patterson, jerry roath, and 2 more people like this update.

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    1. Missing avatar

      Karen on

      Thanks for all you do, Wayne!