What do you love about this job?
Having been raised in the Pacific Northwest, it came as no surprise I wanted to stay within the realm of Eastern Oregon and Washington as I looked at colleges to attend. With my passion and commitment to athletics, I was fortunate enough to have extended my softball career to college where I am currently a junior catcher on the Whitworth softball team. The journey to college athletics was no small feat, as any expansion of play or schooling truly takes a tribe. My tribe included teammates who shared in the struggle of sunburnt shoulders, sweaty cleats, stale sunflower seeds, and a lot of dirt. But my tribe extended past those who shared my athletic experiences and included my parent’s Forest Service comrades (who also proved to be my biggest fans).
Being raised by a former hotshot and a current fire staff officer, it is no wonder I am wired to be early to every event and have contingency plans for anything the day throws at me. Growing up, my parents always encouraged me to give the “fire life” a shot for at least one summer.
Well, here I am, two summers later and I am still hooked.
While I am not able to work the full traditional temporary season, I make an effort to soak up the summer months with my crew in every way, shape, and form before I go back to school each year.The transition from digging in dirt on fires, to digging in the dirt behind the dish has come as a smooth surprise; I have taken so much from the forest to the softball field. For example, learning the size-up techniques on a type five fire has allowed a new level of focus and understanding when I take the field and size-up the defense during games. In fact, these techniques have offered a lot of clarity in a diversity of settings.
When I was younger and traveling around the nation all summer to different tournaments, my parents connected me with fire folks in Colorado, Northern California, and Southern Oregon, which allowed for me to have a wholesome space to come back to after a long day of games. The genuine friendship and community I observed in my parent’s relationships with their fire peers, allowed me to appreciate the loyalty and trust associated with lifelong friends from fire. As I sit here writing this essay, I too can relate to this—on a much smaller scale, of course—but I can appreciate and recognize the “ride-or-die” type of friends you meet in this line of work.
Just as my parents never failed to have a fire friend nearby every time we traveled to a new tournament, I am never without my experience as a forestry technician. The culture of fire, the tradition associated with the shield, and the transferable skills learned—as well as the friendships created along the way—all serve as reasons why I love this job. Grinding through the rough days of being a forestry technician makes you really appreciate the good days (as well as a comfy bed). Despite the exhausting nature of some shifts and out-of-area rolls, without these experiences, we truly would not be able to seize and appreciate the great days; it is because of the Dirty August days that I am who I am. Put simply, it is because of my familiarity with fire and the expectations associated with being a seasonal forestry technician that I am able to continue seeking more good days in the dirt and on the field.
During my athletic experience in school, and in the transition from travel softball to college softball, I have proudly worn numerous logos. But as I look at all the logos I have worn, the one that has been pivotal in my development as a player, leader, community member, and worker, is the shield I where while fighting fire.