I am not a firefighter. The only fires I have ever put out have been smoldering campfires and mere candle flames. During the summers that hardworking firefighters have worked 24/7 to keep fires around Missoula from reaching our homes, I have done nothing but sit on my porch in the mornings, gazing up at the smokey sky, and watching pine needles turned to ash disappear into my coffee mug. Though wildfires often surround me in the summers, I had never felt the heat of a tsunami of fire raging through the forest.
When I agreed to help Christian and Watershed Consulting with a prescribed burn on the outskirts of Missoula, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I just wanted to see the tsunami of fire, the flames skirting along the forest floor, and the layers of forest engulfed in smoke. I didn't think about what a prescribed burn actually was or what it would actually entail. All I knew was that I needed leather gloves, leather boots, and rule number one was "Don't fuck up!"