Among older and retired firefighters, I often hear about the “Good ‘Ol Days”. “Why by god… back when we could… bla bla bla.” There are lots of things that were pretty cool about the Good ‘Ol Days. Back then we could ride on the tailboard of a fire engine. That was fun. Of course firefighters died riding back there too. They fell off, got run over, had head injuries, etc. By by god, those were the good old days. I was subjected to some less than professional behavior “back in the good ‘ol days” too. Some things about the good old days really were better. But there is much that I’m glad we left behind. This week, I’ll tell a story about my first controlled burn. I was young and not very experienced, but had the opportunity to try something new. At the time no one I knew was burning in the desert scrub in Arizona to learn from. The nearby Coronado National Forest started their controlled burn program after I started mine.
This story relates how youth and enthusiasm coupled with a little knowledge and experience can accomplish great things… and sometimes be a failure. I would say at the bottom of my balance sheet, my experiences were positive and helped me become an asset as an experienced burner. Over the years I gained more knowledge through agency classes as well as my graduate studies for my Masters Degree. But as in any career, youthful enthusiasm can be a great asset. Hope you enjoy this weeks story and please send comments or suggestions for future stories. Thanks.
6 thoughts on “#40 – Burning by the Seat of my Pants – My First Controlled Burn”
Got to you through Facebook. I’ve bookmarked your website, very interesting. Keep up the good work.
Thanks for replying Mike. Appreciate it..
Enjoyed your talk. I was a DR with the FS here on the Ouachita NF for a lot of years and we did quite a bit of burning. I had done no prescribed burning until coming to Arkansas in 1970. Burning plans were one page and a map in the 70s but increased in pages but increased in but was still less than 10 pages when I retired in 97. I talked to the FMO on my old District 10 years later and he said he had done one that was 57 pages.
Great stories and I can relate. I moved from Region 6 to 9 in 1992 and was a newly minted RXB2. Having done alot of burning at Detroit and Gold Beach, I felt confident I could burn in Vermont (Green Mt NF). Well I was tight on people one weekend but decided to do a few small burns. The test fire on the first one was too hot so we decided against that one. The second was more shaded and doing well until we got a spot down in a drainage where the engine couldn’t go. With very little backup we were asses and elbows for about an hour. My backup crew couldn’t hold, we were exhausted, so we called in the local VFD. Most were at a BBQ so they had to leave that and help ‘The Forestry’. Some were in boat shoes and handling chainsaws with minimal PPE. Some appeared to have been drinking too. It was amazing we didn’t hurt someone that day!
Monday morning came and my District Ranger and I met with the Local Fire Chief of a small central Vermont town. She was a great person and smoothed out any ruffled feathers. It turned out ok in the end but was a humbling experience for sure.
Later, I was a District FMO in Mississippi for a few years and that was eye opening. I was still an RXB2 but told my folks to consider me a trainee until I could figure out how to burn in that country. My district burned 42,000 acres in 2008 and the forest burned 251,165 (I still have the shirt with that on it!). I was the BLM State Aviation Manager in OR/WA before that and told my old boss in Portland (Carl Gossard) that my district was burning more acres that Region 6 was at that time!
Your piece brought back some fun memories of prescribes burning throughout the country.
Thanks for posting that Brad. We all have real similar stories don’t we?
We sure do. I had a great career and am grateful for those opportunities.