19 June 2023

Smoke on the Water

Written by: Josiah Martinez

Saludos everyone! With this being my first MANO blog entry, I must say it has been quite the experience thus far. I have met numerous amazing people, learned more than I thought possible, and broke into a profession that I have a burning passion for. And it's only been two months. With anxious eagerness I began my internship as a Wildfire Dispatcher early this February. The Dispatch Center I operate out of covers a massive amount of area, from the eastern half of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado to the entirety of Kansas.With such a large jurisdiction and history of fire activity, I knew I was going to have to learn, and learn fast. 

From the very get go, I was thrown into a sea of software, paperwork, and Standard Operating Procedure manuals that each played a vital role in the functions of the Center. Understandably I was overwhelmed. But I wasn't alone. The Pueblo Interagency Dispatch Center Staff immediately welcomed me and showed me the ropes. Slowly but surely they have eased me into everything I needed to know, from the Computer Aided Dispatch system we use, to proper radio operations, and even map reading. Like a puzzle, everything began falling into place just in time for the early springtime fire season. I was shaped, molded, and ready with all the information imparted to me to start official dispatch duties, eager to see the busy springtime buzz that fill the Center as the warm spring wind blew in. I would soon have my skills tested.

I firmly believe the best way to learn is to be put directly into the action, and so I was. On  March 27th at 12:19 PM, I received radio traffic from a Forest Service engine crew responding to a wildfire at the very southwest corner of Kansas. With anxious confidence, I readied up knowing this would be my first wildfire. Overall, it wasn’t a big incident; a small one acre grass fire that was started from a farm tractor’s exhaust. It was quickly knocked down within 20 minutes by responding crews. But the scale didn’t matter to me. What mattered was I had officially managed my first fire. I hoped for a fire with a cool name for my first official incident but instead I got the Lingle Fire. Memorable for sure, but not cool as I had hoped. Regardless, I won’t ever forget that name.

As the weather continues to warm and the thin Colorado air dries, I know more fires are on the horizon, it's inevitable. But I also know I have the newfound skills and abilities to handle what is coming my way, and I am going to love every single moment of it.

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