A Firefighter

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Joshua, 1977-

“Trees would explode and ambers, the size of bowling balls, would come hurling off the side of the hills. The fire, so windy, like a tornado, still lifting things up and shooting them into the sky, and then they start falling down like meteors.”

For about a year and a half, while serving time, I worked as a firefighter. I was on the valley fire last year, in 2015. He points at his shirt with a Valley Fire print on it.

It was very hard work, but a great experience. You work long hours, 18 hours a day, and you get dirty for two-three weeks. While everyone was complaining about the filth, I was accustomed to it, ‘This ain’t nothing!’ he smiles. Our job was to stop the fire from burning into green areas, which is the main objective of wildland type II firefighters. We stayed in the black zone, where the fire burned, everything black, and we edged. Stifling hot coals with sand, and digging out roots, or else they would keep burning for weeks on end.

I never experienced anything scary or life-threatening, but we were close enough to see the raging fire. Trees would explode and ambers, the size of bowling balls, would come hurling off the side of the hills. The fire, so windy, like a tornado, still lifting things up and shooting them into the sky, and then they start falling down like meteors. I have seen a wall of flame, as high as a three story building, running through the side of the mountain, rolling over it and going down the other side in less than fifteen minutes. It is the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen.

I also felt free. When you are out on a fire, you are working and your mind is meditating away from ‘I’m in prison, I’m in prison, I’m in prison.’ And when you work with other men who are free, who see your value and don’t treat you like a prisoner, but like a human, then you truly start forgetting you are in prison.



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