This time, a nice big fire in Montana, near the small town of Red Lodge. Burning in a blowdown. It's called the Cascade fire, and it's not really far from Yellowstone (not so close it's at the risk of burning into it, but it's a landmark lots of people know).
Hubby's on the road and will get there tomorrow, where he will do his Public Information Officer bit...passing out news, maybe updating the Inciweb website from time to time or maybe even take pictures. He could easily be gone 2 weeks.
A blowdown comes from when wind coming down in a really powerful downdraft or other situation wreaks the heck out of a forested area, knocking trees right out of the ground, like a bowling ball does to pins. And they dry out. And they burn really well if it's been long enough since the blowdown. So there's lots of fuel, lots of sparks and a lot of work for the crews involved. This fire has a bunch of hotshot crews on it.
I know smoke jumpers get a lot of the glory, as they parachute into remote areas to control fires that have just started and are small and often can be dealt with sometime even by direct attack. But Hot Shots in my book are the real heroes. They go into areas where the fires are babies,, but established and really cooking. They eat a lot of smoke, cutting line. When you cut line, you are digging through the vegetation until you reach mineral soil. Sometimes this means removing shrubs, brush, vines and even trees. You are making a road, in a sense, a piece of bare ground you hope will deny a fire fuel to progress. If there's enough time, after the line is cut, a small fire might be set inside the line to deny the big fire even more fuel. These are normally called burnouts, but some folks like to call them backfires.
It can be dangerous work, especially around trees that have partially burned or are old or the wrong type. A lot of places like that have broken tree tops caught in their branches. In the old days, they were called widow makers, although it may be more pc to call them snags. A young man in California lost his life last week because a tree came down on him. Even fallers, guys whose business it is to bring down trees, a lot of times get nervous because of the way trees can get in these situations.
So my hat off to the brave guys (male and female) out there on the line, and my prayers with them. Every fatality is a bad thing.
My hubby, though, usually isn't that close to the action. Although in his younger days, he would rappell out of helicopters like smoke jumpers do as part of the initial attack. I'm glad he doesn't do that any more.