Alaska, Wildfires, and My Husband…Oh My!

You may have seen this on facebook, but I’m sharing a bit more in depth today.

Chad

We spent the day on Sunday celebrating my awesome husband. He’s such a blessing to us. He’s a great father who is actually engaged with his kids and present in their daily lives. He’s a great husband and leader for our family.

He is a strong man and a diligent worker. He’s quick to lend a hand if he sees a need.

This week, he left to go lend a hand in Alaska. 

A part of my husband’s job as a forest ranger is fighting wildfires. Before we were married, he used to go on Western fire trips every year. These trips mean that he uses up 3 weeks of vacation time and goes out west as a part of a fire crew (he is paid, but he must use vacation time from his everyday job in order to go).

They go where they are needed and work hard and live in primitive conditions for 14 days to try and help get these fires put out.

He hasn’t been needed to go for the last 10 years, but this particular time there was a big need. His name wasn’t officially on the list to be considered because he wasn’t planning to go, but they were having trouble filling the crews and he was needed. It was a bonus for him that he would get to go to Alaska as a part of this particular trip.

He received the call at around 5:00 on Sunday, and he left at around 4:30 am on Monday morning! Yes, we had less than 12 hours notice that he would be leaving us for around 3 weeks.

Craziness–my head is still spinning.

[In the photo below, my husband is 3rd from the right in the back row]

Alaska

It’s hard…but worth it.

Please don’t think I’m whining or having a pity party. I’m not. But, it’s tough to have my husband gone for 3 weeks straight. We aren’t used to this!

I miss him and the boys miss him. I know he’s in danger (we are coming up on the 2nd anniversary of a horrible tragedy that killed 19 members of a 20-man hot shot crew). And then there are the practical household things, and I don’t have family around to help.

It’s not easy!

Since my husband left yesterday morning, I’ve been following his progress, and sharing things on facebook for family and friends. The Kentucky Division of Forestry shared an image and some information about the teams that were heading toward Alaska. And it started to go a little viral on facebook…even the governor of Alaska shared it! Right now it has around 1000 shares and nearly 400 comments!

I got to read through many of those comments. Most of them were made by Alaskan citizens who were thanking these brave men and women for their sacrifice and dedication to go there and help out where they are needed.

Oh what a blessing and perspective changer that was for me! It was such a blessing for me to be able to read real comments from the people who live there, and who are grateful for my husband and the other men who are going to help.

I can tell you that I am one proud wife right about now! I always am, but my heart is just bursting after reading the comments of gratitude and getting to see firsthand the difference he is making, along with the other crews.

Why isn’t this on the news?

One of the comments that I saw on Facebook said, “Why isn’t this on the national news?”

The truth is, I’ve always wondered this myself.

Right now in Alaska, there are more than 200 wildfires burning! Some are large and some are small, but there are over 200 total.

alaska 4

For many people this type of thing is old news. There are those like myself who have family members who go on these trips or serve on hot shot crews. And there are people who live in the states that are constantly threatened by these wildfires.

But for the most part, no one else in the country knows about it. If the fires are very bad, you might get a little blurb on mainstream media.

I do have to put in a little shout out here for Planes: Fire & Rescue, which was kind of about this. But, you know…it’s a cartoon with planes instead of people, so it doesn’t really count.

So, let’s spread the word

I want to do my part to help spread the word. Not just for my husband, but for all the men and women across the country who do this dangerous job that no one ever hears about.

And for the people who are affected by these fires–who lose their homes, and others who lose their lives.

This happens every single summer throughout the western US. It’s not a one-time thing. 

Some seasons are worse than others, but it happens every year.

Right now, there are 2 crews from Kentucky, 2 from North Carolina, and 1 from Virginia who are traveling to their respective destinations in Alaska, to help out with fires there. As far as I know, there are 20 people on each crew.

Here are some of the men boarding the plane to head out there.

Alaska 2

Prayers for Safety

As of June 23rd, there were 243 forest fires being tracked in Alaska, with new one still popping up. Many of these fires are completely unmanned and many are threatening entire villages. The weather conditions are perfect for the spreading of fire.

There are many crews throughout the state battling these wildfires.

These men and women are well-trained, but they are going into a potentially dangerous situation. Please pray for their safety, and pray for families–mine and others–who are missing them. And, of course, we pray for those who are directly affected by the fires.

More Information & UPDATES

Here is more information about hand crews and what they do. My husband is on a Type 2 crew. You can also see more information about the current large active fires here. I will update when I know which exact fire my husband has been stationed to work.

6/24 Update— The crew my husband is on will be heading to McGrath, AK. It’s not accessible by roads so they will be flying there. We’re told that communications will likely be very limited. I don’t have information for any of the other crews.

alaska assignment maps

Here they are in their Nomex, ready to go. I got very emotional today after talking to him one last time, since I likely won’t hear from him again for the rest of the 2 weeks.

Alaska nomex

And just for fun, my hubby said that being in Alaska is a new experience for most of them. He said that, officially he was told that the sun set last night at 11:30 pm and rose this morning at 3:30 am. I told him that’s good, because I had seen that it was even less than that, more like 12:30-2:30. He said it didn’t matter because it looked like daylight the whole time anyway.

Comments

  1. Sheila says

    I live in Prescott. I can’t even express what it was like two years ago. We always appreciated our fire fighters, but the reality of what can happen was unthinkable. I hope lessons learned will keep future fire fighters including your husband safe.

  2. grtlyblesd says

    My husband is a fire captain. He’s been on strike teams ever since my 14 year old was a baby. Best wishes for easy time at home for you while he’s gone. And his safety, *of course*.

  3. Shannon P says

    Prayers for your husband and the rest of the crew…for their safety on the fire front. Prayers for you too as you pick up the slack in his absence. I understand how difficult that can be. :)

  4. says

    Praying for your husband and all fighting the fires, for their safety and safe return home. I would be missing my husband terribly too. Mine got stuck out of town due to snow. He was gone for two nights and it was the longest two nights of my life.

  5. says

    My son went out west about this time last year as a hand crew member with some of these same people I believe to help with the fires in Oregon. That was our first time in experiencing anything relative to wildland firefighting. I, like you, began to share the images/stories/updates on the fires at that time because there are a lot of people that don't have any idea what wildland firefighting consists of. He would've have been going with this same group probably if he hadn't of got a permanent job with the Forest Service which took him from Land Between the Lakes to North Dakota in May. He continues to keep up his training in wildland firefighting and says that if a crew from North Dakota is sent somewhere, that it is usually an engine crew as opposed to hand crew which will just give him a little more, but different, experience. As for this Kentucky crew…. hope all goes well for all of you and you return safely to your families.

  6. says

    My hubby is an old pro at this, he's been out west many many times. But for me as a wife at home, it's a first! lol. I always look for and hear about summer fire season because of his connection with forestry, but it's amazing how little it's publicized otherwise.

  7. Anonymous says

    Thank you so much for sharing. My daughter is on the crew and this is her first time. I’ve been thinking how lucky she is to be with such a dedicated and experienced team for her first fire. We’ve certainly learned a lot in the last 48 hours. They actually stopped on their way in Omaha to refuel, but we didn’t get a chance to go over and say hi. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the crews.

    • Crystal Brothers says

      It’s hard for me as a wife, and I know it’s gotta be hard as a mother too, especially since it’s her first time going. I do think she’s with a great crew for sure.

  8. says

    Kendra Brasher, that's what I figured but wanted to be sure. My husband met her and thought she looked really familiar. Then found out that she volunteers at the Homeplace and we'd seen her there the last time we visited :) So that was kind of fun.

  9. says

    My husband goes out West every year. He's on this crew to Alaska as a sawyer. In the pic above is is second bottom right. I wanted to say I love your post & our husband's sound alot alike. Prayers for there safety.

  10. says

    As an Alaskan I would like to say thank you for the support of your family and your husband. We are in dire straights up here and we are ever so thankful and humbled by the generosity and bravery shown by the crews that are coming in to help us out. I think I can speak for most Alaskans when I say that your husband and those fighting the fires along with him are in our thoughts and prayers. THANK YOU!

  11. says

    Thank you for the support from the men and women who have come here to help our beautiful state. We are completely covered in smoke here in Fairbanks and north pole and we could not so it without you.

  12. sherrie says

    We really appreciate all the men & women, as well as their families, who are in Alaska right now helping with the fires! The smoke is unbelievable, bringing the air quality way down. It is really hard on older people, children and people with breathing issues in general. Most people do not have central air and can not even open windows with temperatures reaching 80 outside. We know it is a sacrifice having your loved ones away right now, but we are very grateful! Thank you!

  13. adrianscrazylife says

    That is so sad that such a beautiful state is burning up like that. I was thinking about this just today. How much we depend upon these fire crews and I’m sure it is backbreaking, hot, and dangerous work. I can’t even imagine. That is amazing that he is willing to give up his vacation time to go and do this. Hope he and his crew keep safe and are successful in their battle against these horrible fires! #HeartsforHome

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