Sunday, July 1, 2012

Fire On The Mountain

As seen on:

Last night we received a call from our son, only hours after he and his girlfriend were over relishing the sun with us and enjoying some time off of his job with the Alaska Division Of Forestry, informing us that he was going to be deployed with 5 other Alaska division crews, to go down and assist the fight with the Colorado blazes. The last time he was deployed to any major wildfire was into the Alaska interior last year, to fight a fire outside of Tok. Our initial reaction was of both excitement for him, and of course, worry. Upon contacting family both on my side and my wife’s to let them know, the sentiment was the same, maybe more on the side of worry.

Here’s the deal: This is what he has trained for both last summer and this side of this years fire season. This is what he has wanted to do for a good 10 years of his life since I took him to the scene of a small wildfire which broke out not far from where we lived in the mountains years ago.

We watched from a mile away as the air attack planes flew low over the fire dousing the flames and the surrounding terrain with retardant. The boy was wide eyed and intrigued over it all! An hour later once the flames were knocked down, I drove him to the staging area, where the sight of forestry rigs, fire apparatus and crews rolling on and off the line had his full attention. We were fortunate enough that day while carefully, as not to get in anyone’s way, strolled around the engines just checking it all out. The Incident Commander must have seen the glow in the boys’ eyes, as he approached my son and began to chat with him. The next thing I knew, we were being walked down a trail with the commander, and as we rounded the hillside into burned out brush and trees, our son about fell over with envy and excitement. There, he witnessed a hand crew hosing, sawing, shoveling and cleaning up hot spots. The leader of the crew came over and took him right into the heart of it all, smoldering hillside either side of him, and walked him through all of the procedure the crew was tasking! This was what I would gauge as one of the most definitive moments of our sons dream career!

It has been tough for him here this year, as unseasonably cool temperatures dominated the little springtime we get, and the summer has seen much rain and little to no fire activity. He has watched from afar as crews have heroically saved homes and property and battled to control the wildfires currently burning in the lower 48. Now, he is ready to serve and protect and put his training to the grind! As parents, this is one of those moments we have to step back, understand that he is his own person who has repeatedly shown that he is capable of handling himself and anything that he takes on. We are proud of him and his accomplishments and know that this is what he wants to do.

Worry. It is only natural for parents to worry about their kids, especially when they are going into harms way. Eight years ago, I was in a unique situation, where a loved one was going into harms way. I was concerned and worried sick about it and consoled myself by thinking he would be fine. I mean, what are the odds?! Out of thousands of our countries finest military men and women… I’ll never ask that question again, because now I know first hand, ‘the odds’ are something not to be questioned, ever, and I relive the pain of such every time I hear of another family experiencing what ours did.

As we have awaited an update, as of tonight, he has been reassigned and will now be deployed into Utah, to assist with one of the many out of control blazes there. As parents, we have to be confident that his training has put him where he is at and if there was any thought that he was less than capable, his Division Commander would not be sending him in. The rest is in Gods hands now. This is the experience he needs to make him capable of advancing within the ranks and again, what he has wanted to do. The best of luck goes out to him and his crew, and to those waiting for relief or those experiencing the hardship of such times, we are sending you our best!

It’s times and moments like these, that make us as parents proud of where our kids are going. It is also times like this which should make us feel a great accomplishment as to the parenting we have achieved. I once said to a friend older than I as his son left the nest, “…you have spent 18 years instilling values, morals and responsibility into him. Now, everything you have given and taught him will be put to use as he goes out on his own and you can only hope that it all works now for the best!” I just now received a text from him that he is at Fort Wainwright up in Fairbanks, with 200 other firefighters, just finished dinner and is going to be flown out of Alaska on a military transport in the morning to head down to the lower 48.

Worried? I’m a parent! But then again, that is what consoles me and makes me proud.

For more info on this fire incident that he will be working, go to: