I joined an “Initial Attack” crew from Texas for a wildfire
detail to Arizona from 1-14 July. Representing the crew were personnel from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service and the Texas Forest Service. As the
designation implies this crew is called up to slow the spread of a wild fire
until larger resources can arrive to contain it, if needed. If there is no fire the crew is used at the discretion
of the unit where it is stationed. This
can be anything from patrolling for fires to grounds maintenance. Our temporary station was the Coronado
National Forest in Douglas, AZ. The
first non-fire project was digging holes for poles to support a coral for horses and pack mules. As the days past we resigned ourselves to project work for the duration of the detail. Then the call came for a fire in Kearney, AZ –
3 hours to the north. The fire had
spread to 500 acres through river bottom forest of the Gila River. The crew of 20 was split in two with my squad
relegated to mopping up hot spots after the fire had burned out. The other crew worked with aerial water bucket
drops in areas where the fire flared up as day time temperature heated
up. Win some, lose some nevertheless
mopping up in temperature of 107 degrees (118 degrees heat index) with a 50
pound pack and an additional 20 pounds of protective clothing and equipment was taxing. The fire was contained after the
first day with two additional days of mop up.
On the first day it was either the heat or elevation that made me wonder
if I was getting too old for this work but after three days I working without any problem. It usually takes
three days to acclimate to my environment.
Monsoon rains decrease the threat of fire in the region and
cut short our detail.
|Texas IA Crew. Coronado NF, AZ|
|Eaton's Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii)|
|Mohave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus) |