The other week, I finally got the opportunity to complete my Pack Test, or “Work Capacity Test” for my current job. It’s the arduous-level wildland fire physical fitness test. You wear a vest or carry a pack weighing 45 pounds, and walk 3 miles, in under 45 minutes.
This test was the biggest thing that scared me about my new job. Somehow I missed the requirement to pass the test on the application, and I didn’t realize I’d need to complete it until I was in the process of accepting the position. Over 2 months, I was able to work up to the required time and weight, and now my biggest goal is keeping at it, so that the test doesn’t scare me in the future.
Anyway – I took the pack test on July 6th, which was a significant day in the history of wildland fire. On July 6th, 1994, 14 experienced firefighters died on Storm King Mountain in Colorado. The week before, June 30th, was the first anniversary of the deaths of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots on the Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona. July 10th was the 13th anniversary of the Thirty Mile fire, a fire in Washington State that took the lives of 4 Forest Service firefighters.
That’s 3 major anniversaries in wildland firefighting in 11 days. I’ve read much about all three incidents, including John Maclean’s books on the South Canyon (Storm King) Fire, and the Thirty Mile Fire. He’s a good author, and does a decent job summing up the various investigations, as well as re-interviewing involved parties and trying to put a fuller perspective on the events.
Anyway – One thing I’ve learned in my wildland training is that the 10 and 18 (Standard Firefighting Orders and Watchout Situations) have been written in blood. Yeah, I’m idealistic because I haven’t actually worked a wildfire, but I just can’t understand why the same things happen over and over again.
As the summer continues, to my friends that wear yellow nomex – as the 10 & 18 say: Fight fire aggressively, having provided for safety first.