Day 14. That one word and one number excites a part of the brain that every wildland firefighter has come to know. Day 14 is the last operational shift. Last day of mop up, last day of pump operations, last day of sitting on that god forsaken helispot, last day of holding, last day of putting in an indirect line that will surely be burned over in two days time.
Day 14 is salvation, the day on which all other days are inversely based.
I've worked as a seasonal Forestry Technician for nine seasons. I've worked on an engine crew in Northern California, Helitack crews in Idaho and Missouri, and Hotshot crews in Northern California and Colorado. I have tried to become a master of my craft by putting in the reps, and diversifying my skill set. I have loved every minute of it. I am lucky to have spent quality time with beautiful humans, while spiked out in amazing places. We have shared victories and defeats both large and small. We have all counted down the days together.Day 14 is permanently etched on my body. It occupies the space on my left leg above my knee and below my waist. Everytime I'm doing “paper work” in the green, I see it. Everytime I'm doing a situp, I see it. Everytime I'm ripping off chaps and pants because bees are somehow devouring my flesh, I see it. And, everytime I see it, I am grateful. Grateful for the like minded individuals that stood right alongside me on the line and in the tattoo parlor. My hotshot brethren and I all received this savage inking at the same time. A permanent reminder, that no matter how hard the struggle, there is always an end, always a Day 14.
Fire season 2021, was my end, my Day 14. The feeling is bittersweet. A large part of me feels like I'm abandoning the tribe. A sense of guilt like walking off the line when there is still work to be done. Fire is a part of me, it always will be, but it's time to loosen the grip, pass the chaps and saw. It's time to look toward the future, and the next generation. It's time to raise a beer for the Forestry Technicians of the past, who earned the title of Wildland Firefighter for the future.
So, thank you. Thank you for getting paid in sunsets. Thank you for doing more with less.
Thank you for being the tip of the spear. Thank you for the hot mic and two more chains. Thank you for all the cliché sayings and inside jokes that I love. Thank you for all of it.
Keep the stoke alive, enjoy it while it lasts. Sooner or later it will end. Asleep, then a wakeup, and you are gone. Day 14.
Unless of course, you are extending to 21...