Friday, September 28, 2007

Fighting the Zaca Fire

From the Line-
August 19, 07


This time the flames were the size of buildings! We're all standing outside the engine behind the dozer line when suddenly everyone starts yelling like indians and shouting "Spot Spot" and it was on. Shaffrar looked at me, "Pepaj, c'mon!" and we took off diving into the brush and tearing up the hill. The helodrop was blarring like machine gun fire. It was like being in combat, my adrenaline was pumping so fast and when we finally got in the open, the bombs started to drop.

8000lbs of water just crashed to the ground no more than 5 feet away from us with the chopper so low you could read the tail number. We all jumped in and started hotshoveling and scratching a line around the spot while someone from another engine sprayed it down. We hacked on that sucker until it was dead, and even then we still weren't breathing.

We loaded up and headed to the other side of the line, we might as well have been driving straight into hell with flame fronts like tidal waves so close to the engines that it was melting their paint. We were ON the line, the road WAS the line. Shrubs were torching right next to us and a Fire Whirl snaked its way right behind our striketeam leader. We jumped out, grabbed hose packs and tore up the green side to run a progressive hose lay around a huge slop-over. I followed Shaffrar and Embrie up the hill and plugged into the second gated wye, where Kyle was staging. Half way done with my hose pack and struggling to keep my balance, suddenly the pack flies off my back, knocks me over and sends my helmet flying off my head right in front of a hotshot team. Kyle charged the hose pack while it was still on my back!!!! Thanx man, you're a pal (punk).

No time! Grab the nozzle and go. I'm scrambling trying to stay with Shaffrar and spraying flare ups as I'm going. Holy cow, I'm fighting fire! The smoke is so thick it's making me cry and I'm trying to fan it away.

Kyle looks at me and laughs, "what's the matter, don't you just love smoke in your lungs?" Yeah, I really do, now there's nothing I love more.

Night came and the engine bumped along the road while we all walked spread out in a line beside it. I'll never be the same after what I saw tonight. The most powerful force in nature ripping and charging and tearing up the hillside like it was alive. The mountainside was on fire, crowning and torching like the hand of God. My team looked over at me and pointed to my head, "keep it up here."

I know who I am now, I know why I'm here.


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