First and foremost, this week was highlighted by the fact we received our red cards from the Forest Service and completed the associated paperwork which allows us to conduct wildfire suppression. The term is AD, or on an administratively determined pay plan, and any direct fireline work we do this summer will technically be as AD Forest Service employees. Although we had our red cards on Monday morning, our first actual day calling in to the Dispatch Center for fire service was Thursday, the 5th.
Monday and Tuesday were spent finishing up with the Heritage Division Archaeologists. Our work was similar to that described in week three, although we were located in a different area which had not been surveyed by the division in approximately 15 years. We reconfirmed the remains of an old housing foundation, as well as numerous sites clearly used in the Black Hills’ rich mining past. We were all impressed with the impressive amount of knowledge to be acquired from something as seemingly nondescript as the styling of a whiskey bottle. It was also interesting to learn that these miners essentially lived on condensed milk, coffee, and sardines—and the canning remains of all three are literally scattered across the region.
After a relaxing day off on the fourth spent barbecuing (and thinking of our brothers and sisters in arms still in harms way), on Thursday we worked with the Recreation Division. Our project consisted of trail rehabilitation near Deerfield Lake—we eliminated an improper section of trail, and more clearly blazed approximately 100 yards of new trail. We also built multiple sections of buck and rail fence, and put up the proper signage to encourage hikers, bikers, and equestrian use while discouraging motorized vehicle use.
Friday we were back on call with the Mystic Fire division, shadowing one of the engines for the day. It was nice to catch back up with the Mystic personnel—we had a large cookout at the Hill City Forest Service location. Since the Black Hills Fire Danger Level had reached “Extreme” early in the week, crews from literally across the nation had arrived and were joining us—Oregon, Washington, California, and Nebraska were all represented, and likely others as well. Some much needed rain arrived later in the week to help moderate the short term threat, but with serious drought conditions this year we anticipate action on the fireline in the future.