|Andre checks out the view in Suffolk, VA while on the Phoenix 3 team|
Everyone’s done it whether it’s been around a campfire or into a lighter, everyone has stared into a flame and been mesmerized by its overwhelming glow and thought of its unbelievable potential power. It can light your way in the dark, warm your body on a cold winter night, or destroy a life in less time than it takes to blink.
AmeriCorps NCCC offers its members experiences that many of them couldn’t think possible. One of those experiences is to be a wild land firefighter. In the Atlantic Region these selected members are known as the Phoenix unit. Each Phoenix is chosen and trained at the beginning of the term and placed back into their respective teams until they are called into service. Each round eight members are plucked from their permanent teams and placed into the honorable position of a Phoenix. It’s a chance for people from different units of the corps to meet and work together and get a chance to have a break from your permanent teams. (Which I don’t really need since mine is so awesome).
The Phoenix 3 team, which included Raven 1’s Maddi and me, had the privilege to be the first team in five years to go out west to Idaho to fight the wildfires that were raging across the state. In a chartered flight of over 800 firefighters from the east, Phoenix 3 flew to Idaho and started their adventure at the Trinity Ridge fire. When we arrived we joined a world we couldn’t have prepared for. The camp site, surrounded by the beautiful Idaho Mountains, was a sea of tents and commotion, trucks and people moving around, going in and out of tents.
|P3 goes west - left to rigt Maddi, Emily, Andre, Rebecca, Liz, Erik, Ben and Bobby|
Myself and the Phoenix members were placed in a crew of 80 other firefighters and we were known as the Virginia Crew. An hour into our arrival after being briefed on the plan of action to contain the 90,000 acre fire, we were sent to assist other crews to protect the town of Featherville. After two days of hiking up mountains, digging line, and prepping the town for the worst, we were able to proceed with the burn-out operation. (A burn out is a term of firefighting where a section of land is burned and turned to black to stop the main fire from spreading.)
When the day came to start the burn-out operation, we were so excited but then disappointed because it had been canceled due to weather. Just when we had lost hope the weather changed and the burn was back on. Helicopters flew overhead, drip torches set the ground to flame. Trees torched 50ft into the air and we stood facing the flames and around the town of Featherville, making sure no embers flew overhead to start spot fires and endanger the town. As the night grew on so did the fire. Hours after the fire blazed it grew stronger, and faster, and brighter. It was a sight to behold. Just before the sun rose, we were relieved of watch duty. As we rode in a lime green school bus back to camp, before our heavy eyes gave way to exhaustion, we looked back and saw the amazing power of that which is fire.
|A few members of Phoenix 3 fire team pause for a photo- left to right Maddi, Andre, Erik, Robert, Liz and Rebecca|
“Love is like a friendship caught on fire. In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep-burning and unquenchable.”