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The First Month

Selfie of three firefighters

By Spandan Buch, Metro Field Crew Member / AmeriCorps Member

One month down, nine to go. Wow, that’s a wild thought. I hope the rest of the term doesn’t pass at this same pace – it’s going by faster than a pack test! On the other hand, it’s been such an incredible month and if the rest of the term goes the same way, which I’m confident it will, I will not be upset at all.

I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge and several new skills across so many disciplines this past month, from public land history to mental health first aid all the way to fighting freakin’ wildfires! However, as exhilarating as it is to be a certified wildland firefighter and to run massive chainsaws, it has all paled in comparison to my experience with the people I’ve encountered so far.

Even from the first few days of orientation, I was amazed at how invested the administrative staff were in welcoming everyone to the Corps. Over the next few weeks of onboarding, we met and worked with our district staff and the field coordinators & specialists, and I don’t think there could be a cooler group of people to learn from.

Of course, it goes without saying that the cherry on top of this term so far has been my fellow corpsmembers. Though opportunities to interact with peers from other districts and programs are limited, just one week at wildfire training camp a couple of weeks ago was enough to show me just how wide the range of experiences and backgrounds that make up this year’s service group spans. With that comes a breadth of different ideas, goals, and perspectives that everyone is bringing to the table (or workbench, if you prefer) every day. And I have a funny little story, albeit a benign one, of a moment with my crew that stuck out to me – it felt like a perfect encapsulation of this.

If you haven’t encountered a cedar tree yet, specifically the Eastern Red Cedar that’s currently growing a bit too big for its britches ‘round these parts, then just know that it’s quite a… sensory experience. The rough and knobby bark, scratchy needles, and annoyingly low branches might have you thinking some ugly thoughts, but when it gets cut, you’ll see the vividly reddish-pink wood and smell a sweet fragrance coming from the huge pile of soft, pink wood shavings at your feet, which my crew leader, Drake, likes to refer to as “the pink confetti.”

After my crew felled a cedar on the last day of chainsaw training week, my crewmate, Addison, wanted a souvenir, and after a quick buzz of the saw, the three of us came together to admire her handiwork. Some might call it a slice of cedar, while others might say it’s a cedar cookie. They both instantly saw the potential of this wood as a decorative art piece or maybe a charcuterie board. My first thought? “That would make a dope frisbee.”

Like I said, a wide variety of perspectives.