Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I'm Moving to Mississippi

It's time to get this show on the road.
I got a job in Jackson, Mississippi as a wildland firefighter. I'll be a member of the Jackson Hotshot crew.

Hotshots are serious wildland firefighters. Not that other crews aren't, but there are certain standards that Hotshots are held to that other crews generally are not. "Their core values of duty, integrity, and respect have earned Hotshot crews an excellent reputation throughout the United States and Canada as elite teams of professional wildland firefighters."

Every wildland firefighter must pass the arduous level Work Capacity Test which consists of carrying 45lbs for three miles in less than 45 minutes. But Hotshots must also meet these physical requirements:
  • 1.5 mile run in a time of 10:35 or less
  • 40 sit-ups in 60 seconds or less
  • 25 pushups in 60 seconds or less
  • Chin-ups, based on body weight
    • More than 170 lbs. = 4 chin-ups
    • 135-169 lbs. = 5 chin-ups
    • 110- 134 lbs. = 6 chin-ups
    • Less than 110 lbs. = 7 chin-ups 
While these are the minimum qualifications, most Hotshot crews hold their own arduous standards for physical fitness and workout regimes. I've been informed that for our regular work-outs as a crew we'll be expected to work-out a couple times a day--running totals of 8-10 miles and doing upwards to 400 push-ups and sit-ups. 

I. am. excited. I know to some of you this sounds ridiculous--who would ever want to do that? But, I love wildland fire. It's one of those jobs where I get PAID to hike in the wilderness. It's a dirty job--that's for sure. I'll spend weeks at a time working on the fire line, sleeping in a tent, eating lousy food, and hardly ever getting a chance to shower. 

It's a dangerous job, too. Firefighting used to be #5 on the Top Most Dangerous Jobs list. It now sits at about #13 with 7 deaths out of every 100,000 workers. It's not much compared to how many truck and taxi driver fatalities there are (which is probably why those two jobs have moved up into the top 10 list). But, we all know that fire is dangerous--especially when it's in the wild where fire behavior often become unpredictable. 

Despite how horrible the job may sound, for one thing: It's pretty BAD ASS. And, I've never seen such beautiful sunsets and sunrises anywhere as I have working as a firefighter climbing into my tent at night and crawling out in the morning. I've never felt so satisfied in the workplace as I have after a day on the fireline. It's intense physical labor, but it takes a calm head, focused mind, and positive attitude. There's so much I could say about firefighting. About how great it feels to be part of a team, every member working their asses off side by side. Or how I've learned more in on-the-job training than I ever could have in college. 

One of the best things about wildland firefighting is that it's a seasonal job. I can work work work all summer and then have the rest of the year to write (in theory...assuming I eventually start making money off my writing). And hopefully, as I get more experience and travel around to different fires around the country I'll have enough material to write a book or some essays about wildland firefighting. 

Until then, you can expect some posts about Mississippi--I'm in the research process now. 

Write on!


  1. I'm so excited for you! You are going to be so tough and have so many good stories. I can't wait to hear them all.

  2. Wow! This is amazing... Be sure to let me know how it goes!

  3. Welcome to the south! It doesn't sound like a great job to me but if you love it then that's all that matters. Plus I'm happy someone wants to do it. It's an important job and I appreciate everyone who does.

    1. Where are you in the South? I was nervous at first about the idea of finding a new writing group, but I've learned that lots of writers came from Mississippi, so maybe it won't be so bad.