The Burn Over

Our Helitac crew’s firefighting efforts and my water drops were not going to be enough to get this wildfire under control. No control today and unless we got some help from Mother Nature, not for a few days.There were no roads anywhere near the fire and other than by boat through interconnecting lakes and rivers it was a flight in by helicopter or float plane to get out here. The boat trip would take about two days from our lakeside fire to the fire base in our little northern Cree Indian village.
Two days is about how long this fire had been going before we found out about it from the locals who walked into our firefighting base. Two days ago I had been talking with Albert and his Helitac crew about getting some matching coveralls for the crew when four other local Crees walked in looking for the Ranger.
Steve, the Ranger, after asking the nature of their business, soon found out that the men were hoping to get a job with the fire crew that would be working the fire, by Morton Lake.
Albert, upon hearing of the fire, called the crew to get ready, while the Ranger just shook his head. Steve looked my way and snorting the words said;
“Keith, get a loaded patrol up with your crew”. Over the radio I received the grid reference for my Forestry map as I ran up the S-58 and launched to what we all knew would be a well established fire.
These early season arson fires, were the inevitable result of a socialist government that encouraged the natives to help themselves, to one of the few work programs offered a native in the north. Firefighting.
Come May, any able bodied native on welfare would be dropped from the welfare roles to seek suitable employment if they had been on welfare for 6 months or more. Many of the natives had been on welfare for the long winter and with Spring and fire season arriving, it was just a matter of time to wait for the bush to dry and “voila”, a fire, and employment.
There was little question that the men who had walked in to tell us of the fire were either its creators or related to someone who was. In fact, everyone was related around here.
The government for a time initiated a policy that no native crews could work a fire in their own district.
Brilliant!
Like I said to one Forestry official after that policy had been quickly canceled, there was one benefit to that ridiculous plan.
“Really, what could that have been Keith”, he asked.”It certainly had not slowed the fire starts, the locals can use a phone and make a deal to start one, if you start one and its expensive to move people around needlessly. So what was the benefit?”
I answered that the government had helped add some depth to a pretty shallow gene pool in some of these villages. A lot of the out of town fire crews were pretty busy servicing more than fire equipment after the fires were done.
” Thank You, for that Keith” he said, turning and shaking his head as he walked away.

Next blog is the Burn Over Part II, or how I thought Albert and the crew were toast.

About Heligypsy

Has it really been forty three years flying helicopters all over the world? I guess its time to share some stories, I hope you enjoy my adventures.
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