The Final Countdown

June was destined to be a particularly difficult month for the team. The fire department was working to complete 40 acres of defensible space as per a grant agreement that ended June 30th. The state crew assisting on the project were quite shy of their promised acreage, leaving our team with a lot more work to do than initially anticipated.

Fuels reduction is the largest part of our project and likely the most disliked aspect of our workload. Imagine if you will a line of twenty people stationed between a chipper and a few sawyers watching as the sawyers cut brush. Your sole purpose for the next few hours is to stand idly by and pass brush from the person in front of you to the person behind you, eventually making its way up to the chipper where it will be chipped to small pieces. Words are not enough to describe the monotony of the work and the lack of stimulation experienced during a normal workday.

People who apply to composite teams are naturally seeking a challenge far greater than what is typically experienced in NCCC, yet the lack of stimulation on this project has been so incredible. Our team leader has sought ways to challenge us more but there is only so much that can be done when your responsibility is to take a bundle of brush from one person and hand it to the next.

Needless to say, this month has been an extremely difficult one for the majority of FMT and has left some of the strongest people I know at their absolute weakest. It comes as no surprise. After almost 100 days on this project, the monotony of the work load has set in, the lack of change has worsen our motivation, and the idea that we still have one and a half months left sounds daunting.

However, there’s always some silver lining here in AmeriCorps. As June finally came to a close, our project sponsor surprised us with free movie tickets in Sedona. Typically, we can only travel 25 miles away from our housing so the opportunity to go to Sedona was a pleasant reward for such a long draining month. We packed up early and started our day off at Slide Rock State Park followed by a hike to Devil’s Bridge. The day was what I needed and is definitely the best weekend I have ever had in AmeriCorps.

Cooper and I doing acroyoga at Devil's Bridge

Cooper and I doing acroyoga at Devil’s Bridge

On the drive back, we watched as lightening storms lit up the sky all around us. Lightening is the number one cause of wildfires in Crown King and as we continued to drive we passed by a few wildfires flaring up on the side of the highway. It was an exciting thing to watch and know that the season is finally picking up, leading us into what will likely be a very promising experience for us all.

We arrived home late to intense thunder and lightening. After settling into bed and getting a little bit of sleep, we received a call around midnight to respond to a wildfire in the area. Our team leader asked us to all stay calm as we quickly collected our things and debriefed before heading to the scene. The call ended up being nothing, just a snag that had caught fire after being struck by lightening. We watched from a distance as it flared up then shrunk in size and, after a few hours, we were sent back to the station and told we would check up on it again the next morning. It may seem like a disappointment, however the call was a really exciting reality for us all that we may finally get to put our training into practice. Since the call, we’ve all been on high alert expecting a call, scanning the radios, and listening to chatter about nearby fires just outside of our district. We’re all really looking forward to the opportunity to be called and I firmly believe that when the call finally comes in, whatever we do get to experience will more than make up for the hard times we’ve endured so far.

I talked to my dad recently and had a bit of a revelation that I’ve been trying to remind myself of. My dad typically has these little nuggets of wisdom that he brings out of left field. I could be very unexpressive about my emotions and I believe he’ll somehow sense my feelings and intuitively have the right thing to say. Maybe it’s a dad thing, but I believe the spiritual connection we have has only deepened as I’ve grown and he has the exact thing to say that I need to hear.

After explaining how things were going here, he said that I have to remember that there is some purpose to me being here. Although it might not be apparent to me now, that doesn’t mean this time is wasted and I’ll likely find that reason with time.

I’ve been trying to hold that thought in my mind during low moments in this project, reminding myself that throughout this entire journey I have taken away things that I would have never expected. Even when I experienced growth in ways that I found to be negative and unproductive, I can look back and realize some purpose. Often I think this program can strongly impact one’s ability to be positive and preserve (ironic considering the pledge). However in looking at it as if there is a sense of purpose, regardless of whether that purpose is apparent now, at least has helped me try to look at my current life in a much different way.


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