My initial response to this essay was complete shock, but not to the intent of the author, but more to the reaction of those that believe otherwise. I find it difficult to rap my thoughts around anything besides the reality that wildland firefighting is a dangerous occupation. The shear nature of fire is anything but predicable and if people or the public don’t understand that before undertaking the task or voicing their opinion on the matter then they are simply wrong.
I know that there’s always the chance that I could be killed and so does my family. We have accepted the dangers and that is why I have extreme respect for the foe that wildfire is. If a person feels otherwise, I urge them to witness the power of a wildfire for themselves. A fire ripping up a mountain slope or across a plain really puts the perspective of how small you are and out of control fire really is. Bewildered is the best word that comes to mind. Yes there are times and situations where the danger is reduced but that doesn’t justify the probability of a serious emergency not occurring.
I have personally been in a serious emergency situation while I was on a hotshot detail back in 2015. It was at the very end of the shift and the incident that occurred never should have happened and it almost cost a man his life. (If anyone is interested I will elaborate on the discussion further but not in this paper.) That was my only experience on a shot crew and I was glad I had the chance to experience how a shot crew should not be. I do, however, fear that the mentality of these individuals is only shadowed by other FFT1 and FFT2 crews around the county. (I can elaborate on this too.)
People need to see and understand that no fire or property is worth the life of a firefighter. We as an organization have to be more involved and recognize that fires are always going to be a natural part of the landscape and with that knowledge build an awareness for ourselves and the general public that reduces the risk of our men and women on the frontlines. It really pisses me off when I watch firefighters risking their lives trying to salvage someone’s home or property. These people build their homes in areas prone to fire danger and in areas so remote you’d need a helicopter just to reach the grounds. Now why in the hell are we in these places trying to protect these structures? These people have homeowners insurance and their property can be replaced, a life cannot.
I can only hope and pray that more people come to this realization after reading “The Big Lie” essay and it generates a different train of thought on how people view wildfires and the dangers they present. I would like to see more people voicing their opinions in the future.