Now that Berkeley is on his second out of town dispatch for this season, I have come to realize that not many people really understand what exactly he does. So here it is:
This season, Berkeley is a Forestry Technician on Crew 7-13 which is tied to a Type 6 engine at Williams Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest. His duties include preparing and carrying-out prescribed fire plans, fire effects, manual and mechanical hazardous fuels treatments, and smoke and wildfire use monitoring as part of a Wildland Fire Module. As such, WFM’s primarily support wildland fire use activities and tasks, including monitoring, mapping, and collecting fire weather and behavior observations, as well as ignition and suppression. They self-supported and may work independently on isolated portions of the fire with little or no logistical support.
After reading that your head might be spinning a little. I know mine was when he first explained it to me. Essentially, he is a Firefighter except instead of protecting homes and other structures, his office is the forest, grasslands, and other not so urban areas. A type 6 engine is basically a Ford 550 that holds a minimum of 300 gallons of water. His position is considered a national resource so he can be sent to any corner of the country during his season which can last anywhere between April and November.
The last two weeks of April (after only 5 days on) he was sent to West Texas and worked on 3 different fires there. On that dispatch he had multiple "work days" that lasted over 24 hours of continuous work. That work included digging and burning perimeters to hold a fire line, cutting and eliminating fuels, and hours of just holding a water hose waiting for the need to use it. Thankfully, on the off time, he slept in motels (a luxury) and had great cell phone reception throughout most of the time he was gone. This time not so much.
Early Sunday morning he was sent to the Wallow Fire. I'm sure if you follow the news at all, you have heard about this fire. At first we thought he wasn't gonna go, but the Eastern edge started being wind fueled into New Mexico. Now it is over 500,000 acres and still growing. Since this is such a large incident (that's what they call them, incidents HA!) he is sleeping in a tent this time around with spotty service. It's been over 36 hours, and already this is harder than the April dispatch.
There is the gist of it. Sometimes I feel slightly comforted writing about it. Looking at the amazing things he does, like sleeping in dirt and on rocks after working a 16 hour day, makes the loneliness not so bad. Knowing that he could be out saving animals (baby goats in TX), or someone's land, really makes me proud to just to know him. All of the hours he is out doing stuff, I try to fill my time here at home with things. Some days it doesnt work so well! Hopefully, now you have a clearer picture of Berke's job.