North side of Mt Rainier on August 24, 2015
Photo by Don Parks

Wildfires in our backyard

My career protecting our region’s landscapes goes back more than a decade before joining Forterra. To pay for my undergraduate education at Willamette University, I served as a U.S. Forest Service firefighter in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, Paisley Ranger District in south-central Oregon. I spent three summers on the fire crew fighting wildfires in Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona and British Columbia.

Author Jordan Rash with his former US Forest Service colleagues fighting a wildfire in south-central Oregon.
Author Jordan Rash (right) with his former U.S. Forest Service colleagues fighting a wildfire in south-central Oregon.

My favorite duty was to be the “lead Pulaski”—utilizing the iconic wildland firefighting tool to dig hand line around fires in initial attack. I drove our Type-6 fire engine, ran pumps and laid hose. It was a great opportunity for me to serve my community as well as protect lives, property and landscapes.

Though my wildland firefighting days are nearly a decade behind me, I continue to check the situation report, fire weather forecast and read the 6 Minutes for Safety bulletin. My passion for wildland firefighting has not evaporated over time, nor has my emotional connection with my wildland fire colleagues. In fact, when day-dreaming of getting out on the firelines and swinging my Pulaski once again, I find myself checking in on where my old fire engine has been deployed and hoping my former colleagues are staying safe on the firelines.

It’s hard to sit by and watch the tragedies unfold in Chelan, Twisp, Concunully, Omak and others—particularly the loss of life and injuries sustained by wildland firefighters just last week. While many of us cannot go out on the firelines, we can make a difference.

Communities in north-central Washington need your help to not only help fight the fires but also with recovery efforts that are already underway. I hope you’ll join me by making a contribution to one of the fire relief funds or agencies supporting fire victims. Here’s a link to a list of organizations from the Community Foundation of North Central Washington. You may also want to consider donating to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, which provides relief services to the families of wildland firefighters injured or killed in the line of duty.

Thank you for taking a moment to support those impacted by these catastrophic wildfires, and for keeping them in your thoughts and prayers. And finally, to my brothers and sisters on the fire lines: Remember your 10 and 18, and stay safe.