The sound of my squad boss’ voice invaded my sleep. “Spot fire! Spot fire! Get up! Hustle! Hustle!” I pried open my eyes and tried to orient myself. I was lying in the ash of a forest fire, curved for warmth around a small, smoldering stump. Around me members of my elite Pike Hotshot Crew rubbed their eyes and pulled on their packs as they lurched to their feet. I glanced at my watch. It was 6 am. Other than the brief nap we’d just had, my crew and I had been working to fight a raging wildfire on the Angeles National Forest for 24 hours straight.
I jumped to my feet and joined the line of my crew members hiking hard and fast towards a large spot fire that had sprung up in a flat of manzanita, a tangled, fast burning brush native to California. If we didn’t dig a fireline around the spot fire in a hurry, the fire would likely explode, and there was no safety zone we could retreat to easily.