As we get settled back into our lives here, in our little nook in the mountains of the North Cascades, I cannot help but feel extraordinarily lucky for my fire family. What is a fire family you ask? As some of you know P. is a Smokejumper here in the Methow Valley. P. along with 20-30 other men and women parachute out of airplanes into wildfires, to protect structures and suppress the fires. He does what…you say?! I know…I know…it is a little crazy…but he loves it and I love all the men and women that he does it with.
The men and women of the Smokejumping and firefighting community are a special breed of human. A type of person that lives for intensity, but has been known to carry out baby fawns trapped in a tangle of smoke and confusion. A type of person that is humble, quiet, honest and very unique. Someone who loves chopping firewood just as much as baking a batch of homemade cookies. Someone who lives to be called out in the middle of the night to help protect a neighbors house that is being threatened from the evenings thunder and lightning storm. Someone who would much rather help than take. Someone who serves instead of receives.
These men and women have an extraordinary bond that is quite visible even to an outsider. They camp out together on a mountainside, unbathed and caked in a hard days work, for 14 days straight. They sit around evening campfires, while cooking their apple cider caramelized spam, to laugh, tell stories and talk of their spouses, partners and children at home. They know the most intimate details about one another’s lives. They spend their birthdays, wedding anniversaries, holidays and free time with each other. They bring their children to the base for weekend barbeques, so they can get to know their adopted Aunt’s and Uncle’s. Everyone is family in the fire community.
My fire family is quirky, weird, lovable, tender-hearted, intense and extraordinarily special. My family has grown so large over the years with our involvement in all types of firefighting. It grows bigger with each new-born child, and every new girlfriend, wife or partner added. We are the best man or the maid of honor at each other’s weddings. Our children lay down the walkway of flowers or deliver the rings. We are there at the bedside when someone falls sick or injured. We help build each other’s houses, renovate their trailers, move their boxes and knock out their basement walls. We feel each broken heart, we are strengthened by each triumph and we grow stronger with each bump we hit on the road.
This is my fire family, and I would not have it any other way.