Hitch Report: 12 Sept. – 23 Sept.
The first two weeks are finished. The crew hit the ground running and was quickly integrated into the Forest Services’ fire crews. We jumped into their 4-ten schedule, working four days a week for ten hours per day. We started every day with PT (physical training) to get the blood flowing and usually played a game or two of volleyball before the day begun. We had daily weather briefs and SITREPS (situational reports) about the fire activity around the country. The crew is quickly learning the lingo of the fire world and is already being looked at as just one of the regulars.
The first couple of days were spent moving into our fire barracks (two double wides sitting on one of the forest service yards) and exploring the town. Springerville is very small and we quickly had seen most of what there is to see. Josh was quick to make friends all over town, learning who works where and how to score some beef jerky. Bryan is already a regular member of our local church.
The first week of our work here was spent exploring the forest. We were given a great guided tour by a local engine boss, Dawn and an assistant engine boss, Jesse. We were able to see some of the beautiful recreation areas as well as some of the areas hit hardest by the recent 500,000 acre fire. The rest of the week was spent conducting our S-212 (chainsaw) class. The crew spent all week using the saw and listening to the local experts on the ins and outs of the chainsaw. All members successfully passed their certification examination and all members are currently class A fellers with the forest service. That weekend the members were able to relax around town and explore some of the forest on foot by taking a great hike along a river.
The second week provided the members with some “on the job training.” Because of the fire most of the roads within the forest are closed due to hazard trees. Our crew was able to assist the fire crews in removing these trees and by Thursday we had finished the list of roads needing clearing. The monsoon season is coming to a close here, but not before the crew was able to hone their off road driving skills by successfully navigating some tricky and muddy terrain. But the RAM is tougher than most and overcame every obstacle.
The members spent some more time around town including attending the homecoming football game on Friday night. This was a must since Round Valle High school has the ONLY high school dome stadium in the country, which is also visible from miles away.
The forest is currently in elk hunting season and is full of hunters looking for the big kill. Despite this, the crew can usually spot a deer off in the distance or a hawk soaring above. The crew has yet to spot some of the more dangerous creatures in the forest, mostly bears and badgers. But hopefully we won’t meet them up close, and all thanks to Adam’s knowledge of bears. He taught us quick to announce yourself by saying “Hey Bear,” everywhere we go.
The weather is starting to change quickly here. The highs during the day are dropping little by little and most of the time it doesn’t reach above 60 degrees in the forest, mostly because we are doing a lot of our work above 9000 feet. The crew is having a great time and is learning a lot. Next week we start our meadow restoration project, which will have the crew thinning out junipers with the chainsaws.