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Fractured Fables from the Fire Line Jan 96

by Jack Demmons (MSO 1950) |

Do you know what the statute of limitations is on a jump story? I mean, if something happens on a fire that is so funny you can't wait to tell someone and the guy that it happens to says, ''I'll kill you if you ever tell anyone.'' How many years must pass before you can tell the story and you don't have to worry about the guy still killing you? It has been close to ten years now since this event took place but I am still a little worried that the guy might try something. Maybe if I change the names to protect the guilty .

The MSO base has a complicated formula for determining the fire "Incident Command" duties, especially when a squad leader is on the load. So it is impossible for me to explain how I became the IC on a four manner with two Alaskans and a MSO squad leader we will call "Rappunsel. '' It seemed like a relatively easy fire and a good opportunity for some OJT. I took my assignment seriously and hoped I would meet the expectations of my mentor.

At the conclusion of our suppression efforts, I sought the wisdom of Rappunsel to organize our demobe plan. We were in the vicinity of the Osier Ridge Lookout and considered the short hike to the tower as "our way out." The situation was confused, however, by a maze of logging roads that appeared equally close to the fire from our pre-jump flight. In the midst of all the confusion, Rappunsel offered to take a light load on a scouting mission to the lookout cower first thing in the morning. It seemed reasonable at the time.

Not another thought was given to Rappunsel until Osier Ridge called at close to 1100 hours and asked if plans had been changed since he had not seen his visitor yet. I assured him that nothing had changed but that the hike may have taken longer than expected and not to worry. We then declared the fire out and sat down to finish the last of the edible food in the fire boxes.

Just after lunch the Clearwater dispatcher called and scheduled a helicopter for an afternoon pick-up. Boy, was Rappunsel going to be mad! We prepared for the chopper and even saw our ride overhead but they were diverted to a SMJ fire jump injury in the neighborhood. We were now destined to spend another night on the fire. Still, there was no sign of Rappunsel.

We received an urgent message at 2100 hrs. from dispatch that a search plan was in place. The plan called for "Fixed wing at 0600, choppers at 0700, and search dogs at 1000 hrs. Everyone was relieved when a radio call reported that Rappunsel had been found at 2200 hrs. The crew was reunited the next morning and the previously mentioned threat was implied.

Rappunsel arrived back at the base long before me and received a serious dose of harassment. That abuse led him to seek me out as a friendly face at lunch.

The punch line to this story is that Rappunsel unwittingly changed his T-shirt after his ordeal to one that commemorated his financial contribution to a non-profit organization. The caption said, "SEARCH WORK IS FOR THE DOGS!," and acknowledged him as a sponsor. I conversationally pointed out that I could see why he sponsored that organization. I was still safe at that point until Steve Straley said, "Ya, but what I want to know 1s if he writes it off on his taxes as a charitable contribution or as business expense?