It’s 4:45 am. I roll over and shut off the sound of marimba playing from my iPhone. I struggle to open my eyes while contemplating taking another five minutes of sleep. I open and close my eyes again; a slight stinging sensation covers my eyelids as I press them together. My mind kicks into gear and pulls my body into an upright position. I force myself to dress and prepare for another day on the fireline.
I saunter out of my room, down the hall, and finally into the kitchen to grab some breakfast. It’s my seventh day at the Pony Creek Fire in the Lac La Biche area. Immediately after breakfast I pour myself a large cup of coffee – one cream – and pack my lunch. Next, I head over to the morning safety and tactics briefing.
For the past six days my crew and I have been starting work at 6 a.m. and working long days on this wildfire. Fighting wildfires in the early morning gives us the upper hand because most wildfires don’t like the cool, crisp, stable morning air and therefore do not burn as intensely. To take advantage of the chilled morning temperatures, we put boots on the ground as early as possible and work tirelessly through the day.
On our first day we were tasked by our Strike Team Leader to rappel into two spot fires and have them fully extinguished by the end of the day, but Mother Nature had a different agenda. Heavy rains prevented us from rappelling. The large amount of precipitation that day makes a big impact in decreasing the fire behavior on the perimeter and changing fire containment objectives.
In the following days, my crew worked alongside British Columbia and Ontario firefighters who were brought in because of Alberta’s increased wildfire hazard and activity. We worked primarily with two Ontario helitack crews securing the perimeter and gridding the burned areas; we call them the black areas – in search of hot spots. This wildfire burned largely over muskeg, which means that our feet were immediately wet and walking was arduous. My crew, alongside our fellow firefighters, successfully contained the Pony Creek wildfire – and we had an unforgettable time doing it.
Thank you to the British Columbia and Ontario firefighters in aiding Alberta in our wildfire suppression efforts. It was a pleasure to work with you.
Until next time!