The images on the news and online are surreal more like scenes from Dante’s “Inferno” than anything from real life.
The western wildfire season has been especially bad this year, and the video clips make it seem like the fires have a life of their own.
The intense flames cover vast areas and create their own micro climates as they devour everything in their path.
There seems to be no end to them.
What I tend to think about the most as I watch the coverage of these wildfires is not the fires themselves, but the intrepid firefighters who go in harm’s way to battle the blazes.
Fighting fires is difficult and dangerous work no matter where it is, but I can’t help thinking these giant wildfires must be a special kind of hell.
On days when some of us sit around in shorts and T-shirts complaining about the heat, there are people who are donning heavy, cumbersome protective gear and going into the path of the flames to do battle.
This is no summer vacation. The work is hard, dirty, physical labor.
If it is uncomfortable sitting in the shade sipping a libation, what must it be like near these immense fires that generate their own heat?
I have a vision of walking into a blast furnace, which is essentially the conditions these firefighters are facing.
The smoke can cause problems great distances from the fires. It must be intense near the front lines.
Firefighters battle these conditions in the most challenging terrain imaginable, often in areas with limited or no access to roads.
The hours are long, and breaks are few. In many cases, firefighters stretch out on the ground wherever they are to get some sleep before resuming the fight.
There is money to be made as a firefighter. It’s been reported firefighters can make more than $60,000 in a season, but the financial rewards come at a cost of months away from family and friends, countless hours of intense labor, and constant danger.
Some of those who fight the fires don’t make it home. They pay the ultimate price for working to save land and property.
The people who fight these fires must get deep satisfaction from every house and building they save, and from every acre of land they keep from burning.
Despite all they have done, it may be necessary to do more.
According to some experts, the western wildfire season lasts 80 days longer than it did 30 years ago extending 222 days due to warmer, drier summers.
Those who fight fires must be a special breed, and people who live or work in the path of the fires must be eternally grateful for the work these people do.