We are privileged today to publish an excerpt from a book being written by Linda M. Strader about her experience as a wildland firefighter, which began on a 10-person suppression crew on the Coronado National Forest in Arizona.
The nineteen-year-old woman, strong willed and adventurous, stepped into history when she applied for a position as a Forest Service firefighter in 1976, one year after the organization opened its doors to allow women on fire crews.
Ms. Strader is now a Landscape Architect in southern Arizona. Although she enjoys her current profession, she still remembers her days as a firefighter as the best times of her life.
SUMMERS OF FIRE; A MEMOIR
By Linda Strader
(A PORTION OF CHAPTER 3)
Anticipation grew daily among the crew. It proved hard for me to be patient. I felt ready! The practice fire had me raring to go to a real one, but no matter how much training they drilled into us, I figured nothing would totally prepare me for the real thing.
The morning of June 2nd, at five-thirty a.m., I lay in bed, awake, listening to the calls of mourning doves. “Coo-ah … coo-coo-coo” echoed in the dawn. Such a sad sound. No wonder they call them mourning doves. They sound like they’re crying. I listened intently, trying to determine how many doves I heard, and where their calls were coming from. Gradually, I recognized a new sound; the sound of gravel crunching under feet in the driveway, coming closer to my open bedroom window. The footsteps stopped.
Glenn’s deep voice came through the screen, “Linda? We have a fire.”
Oh my God, this is it!!
Suddenly wide awake, I bounded out of bed and replied in a shaky voice, “Okay, be right there!”