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Kick the tires and light the fires!

Posted Jun 13 2009 12:04am
Last week was a busy one. With fall comes prescribed burn season at work (if you work for the U.S. Forest Service, that is). I'm no longer a full time firefighter, but still have the requisite quals, so when overtime calls, I come running. For those not in the know, we conduct prescribed burns to reduce the amount of fuels on the forest floor, thereby making it less likely that a future wildfire will burn that same area in the near future. First, we lay out a burn unit, typically around 100 acres in size and surround it with control lines (or, more often than not, use existing roads as the control lines). Then, an ignition team walks back and forth across the mountainside with drip torches (kind of like gas cans with a spout and wick that drips a flaming gas/diesel mixture onto the ground) to light the unit. Meanwhile, a holding team makes sure that the fire stays where it's supposed to (99.9% of prescribed burns do just that). Last week, I was on the ignition team both times we burned, which means a lot of miles walking across rugged terrain, carrying a drip torch and all the required gear. This doesn't happen quickly. In order to keep fire intensities low, we have to light off small chunks at a time. Also, at this time of year fire doesn't really want to burn all that badly unless it's the heat of the day, so we can't start burning until late morning and then must try to safely get everything ignited before the sun starts to dip in the evening, because once it's gone, so is our ignition window. Long hours and a significant amount of manpower are required to pull off a burn on any given day.

So, given all that information, here's how my week shaped up:

Sunday - 8.8 miles in the morning, another 5.33 in the afternoon

Monday - 13.02 miles

Tuesday - 8.34 miles followed by a day of burning

Wednesday - 10.47 miles and another day of burning

Thursday - 10.42 miles

Friday - 18.14 miles

Saturday - 10.2 miles

Total - 84.7 miles

The observant out there will notice that I ran my long run a day early. That's because my wife ran the Crazy Horse Half-marathon on Saturday morning. Since Caiden had a soccer game that morning, she went to Hill City with a friend while I stayed back with the kids. It turned out to be a succesful day, as Shannon ran a 2:11:34 (her second fastest half) and Caiden scored both of his team's goals in a 6-2 loss. After Shannon got back, we headed straight for the Black Hills St. vs. Dakota St. football game, which BHSU won 37-14, and then off to Wal-Mart for the weekly grocery shopping expedition and then, finally, back home where I was able to get the 10.2 miler in before dinner.

This week I'll hit 90 miles easy, based purely off my schedule. But, more burning looks to be on tap, so I might have to knock that number back a little to accomodate. I need all the overtime I can get to fund that trip back east I'll be making in April.
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