Dad with Applejack (the horse), doing what he loves, the Ruby Mountains Ranger District, 1984
Behind the Story
I am a forest ranger’s daughter. They say we should write what we know. I wanted to write something a bit different and I realized no one ever writes about forest rangers. So I proposed a series of stories to my editor based on my father’s life. My editor loved the idea. The first book is titled The Forest Ranger’s Promise, which became available in May 2011 and was a Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence finalist winner.
My father also worked on a Type I wildfire fighting crew for over twenty-five years. (In the world of wildfire fighting, the Type I crews are the elites, similar to the Special Forces in the military and comprised of highly trained firefighters prepared to battle the most serious fires nationwide.) Based on a number of Dad’s personal experiences, I wrote my Men of Wildfire series. The first book is titled Her Firefighter Hero, which became available in May 2016.
Before joining a Type I crew, Dad started out on a regular hand crew as a young man. He saw a lot of action. That first fire was back in the early 1960’s, before they had any special equipment, including Nomex fire-resistant clothing and White’s smoke jumper boots. (Believe it or not, the ground a wildfire fighter walks on is literally hot enough to melt your boots if they’re not hand-stitched and made entirely of leather. A firefighter doesn’t want any glue or plastic in his boots as it could melt to his feet.) On that first fire, Dad was all alone with no radio and nothing more than a canteen of water, a Pulaski and shovel, and a hard hat. Because his boss had dropped him off, he had no way to flee the fire he could see burning down below his position. If the wind had changed and brought the flames back over top of him, my mother would have been widowed and I would have lost my daddy. Since that time, the wildfire fighting industry has made massive improvements on equipment, technique, and safety regulations.
I remember us kids riding with my parents to the camp grounds and picking up other people’s trash. I’ve watched my dad assemble his fire pack so it was ready at a moment’s notice, and then seen him return from a wildfire black with soot. I’ve witnessed his gentleness as he dodged flying hoofs while cutting away barbed wire when a deer or elk got strung up trying to jump a fence.
Truly my father is a great American hero. A good, kind man with a ferocity for fighting fire. He’s worked his entire life to help manage our national forest lands. Dad isn’t a preservationist, but rather a conservationist. He believes in using our resources, but managing them properly so they can regrow and be used again and again and aren’t destroyed for future generations.
I’m lucky to have such good parents. They taught me love of God and country. They taught me good, old fashioned values. Every child deserves parents like mine.