By Alex Conrad
I’m woken up earlier than normal by my alarm blaring at 6:20 a.m. Today is Burn Day, so we, the Forestry Crew, have to get out in the field earlier to finish the day’s work before the humidity drops in the afternoon. After getting dressed in all natural-fiber layers to prevent the fires from melting my clothes, I head out to breakfast, which is a protein-packed meal of boxed eggs and thin, crispy bacon. At 7:30 a.m., we roll out of the lot toward the burn piles, which were built back in 2018 and have been sitting there since, waiting for this day.
When we arrive, we go over the safety precautions and our roles. We have two lighters who carry drop torches to light the piles, two sawyers ready to cut down any hazardous trees during the burning, and three foremen who head up the coordination of the day. We head toward the first pile and the lighters set it ablaze.
It only takes a dozen or so seconds before the entire 15-foot tall pile is full of flames. The heat can be felt from 100 feet away and it is impossible to get closer than 20 feet without your face feeling as though it will melt off. The lighters move on to other piles and light those, as other workers are told to watch surrounding punk wood for smoke and embers, armed with McClouds (a fire prevention tool) and shovels. This fire-fueled workday moves on as more and more piles are burned and others smolder down to piles of ash which will still smoke in the following days.
As we light the last few piles for the day, everyone is exhausted, simply watching the fires blaze. Someone pulls out a bag of marshmallows and we all sit back watching the flames while trying to cook the marshmallows without getting too close to the fire. At the end of the workday, we check the ash piles to put out any active flames, pack up into the trucks, and ride back into base.