#2. You Might Get Killed, Just Not the Way You'd Expect
Obviously, fighting wildfires is a dangerous job -- there's only so long you can dance with Lady Fire before she decides to take you home. It's like old fishermen and the sea. You work this job long enough and you just know how you're going to die. That's right: in a vehicle accident, or maybe from a heart attack. Fire and injuries from firefighting rank third, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen: Just trying to fight a fire can be deadly. We cut down dead, damaged, and burning trees all the time. And on those trees? Widowmakers -- limbs that broke off long ago and became stuck in lower branches. They're hard to spot and aren't actually attached to the tree, so they fall unexpectedly as soon as you start chopping.
"Hide your wedding rings, guys. It knows."
There was one time we called in a helicopter water drop and the pilot completely missed. He dropped about 40 feet above the treeline, so the water split up as it fell. It sprinkled gently across the trees and didn't do anything to the fire except possibly provide it with a refreshing mist. The guy calling in the drop got on the radio and said, "That was probably the worst drop I've ever seen." We laughed about it, but only because we didn't die from it. Those drops are dangerous. You have to get close enough to point out exactly where you need the drop, but not get so close that the drop lands on you. It would be just your luck to be the one guy who drowns in a wildfire.
And that's not to mention the houses: Houses are deathtraps in a fire. That's why we don't mention the houses -- seriously, the proper procedure is to pretty much ignore them. We let houses burn down. We understand how important they are to people, and we'll try to stop them from catching fire in the first place, but once they go up, we're not going to risk our lives to save them. We don't even know how -- we're not structural firefighters. That's a totally separate thing. If you're out in your driveway watching your house burn down and you yell to the passing wildland firefighter, demanding to know what he's going to do about it -- he's wondering the same thing. Turn on the hose? Clap? Pray? It's a different story if there are occupants inside, of course, but if it comes down to saving your house and letting the fire advance or losing it and controlling the burn, we always choose the latter.
If this house didn't want to be on fire, it should've been a goddamn submarine.
#1. You Might Encounter a Firenado
David McNew/Getty Images News/Getty Images
More commonly known as fire whirls, a firenado is exactly what it sounds like: a fire tornado. And a fire tornado is exactly what it sounds like, which is fucking terrifying. You just try to keep your cool when a fire tornado comes at you -- and they do come at you. I even had to run from one. There was a dust devil on the other side of the fire from us while we were out in Colorado. That's harmless. Then it hit the fire and sucked up the flames, and suddenly there was a 40-foot tornado of burning coming right at us.
On the plus side, regular tornadoes aren't that scary anymore.
Somebody yelled "safety zone!" and we all ran like hell. Except for my boss, who shouted frantically at one of the guys closest to him. "Will! Freeze!" he screamed. Will turned toward him, scared out of his mind, expecting to see a firenado towering over him like the Balrog, and that's when my boss ... took a picture.
Because there's always time for a legendary Facebook photo, even when two different elemental forces have actively allied to seek your destruction.
Even nature's big swingin' firedick isn't as mighty as simple human narcissism.
When Drew isn't fighting wildfires, he does stand-up comedy, and he has a full special online for free.
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