After getting the brush-off from the local Search & Rescue group last May, I went on about life, but the idea of wanting to contribute more to the community stuck with me.
The solution was easy, actually. I called the neighbor whose backhoe-service I use when a water line needs to be dug up. I knew that he was active with the local volunteer fire department.
"How can I get involved?" I asked.
"Our next meeting is January 28th at 7 p.m.," he said. "Come on down."
And that was it. No paperwork, just a handshake.
Right: The departmental patch is generic. Custom patches cost money.
Another neighbor had tried to recruit me several years ago, but I begged off because I worked in Pueblo, 40 miles away, and was away from home a lot. Instead, I always made sure to write a check for the department's annual fund-raising drive.
I work at home now, so I don't have that excuse anymore. Writing a check seems inadequate when you see the volunteers' old truck heading up a gravel road towards a smoke column.
The issue hereabouts is usually wildfire threatening rural homes. They (we) can get there much sooner than the "feds," the interagency (BLM-Forest Service) crew from Cañon City, who have a larger area to cover.
Hence the analogy: the local militia and the "regulars" from the fort.
So far, I have attended one meeting, which was devoted partly to planning training sessions and partly to choosing a date for the fall chile cook-off fundraiser.
I have ordered a shirt at the uniform store--mainly for wearing at such fundraisers--and bought a pair of high, leather, lace-up boots at the Army surplus store so that I don't have to wear my good Patagonia hiking boots if walking through embers, etc.
Last night was the first training session, held in conjunction with the Florence VFD (which is much larger), on wildfire behavior--the influences of terrain, weather, etc.
To a Forest Service brat like me, it was all familiar territory, but newly urgent, especially when sprinkled with anecdotes from local fires--like the grass fire on the prairie east of here last Monday.
Back when the republic was young, they defined the militia as "the yeomanry of America from sixteen to sixty." (For more on that issue, see Stephen Halbrook.) Some of these volunteers are well past sixty. The department needs new blood. I was glad to see a thirty-something couple show up at last night's meeting as well.
For now, I am the new guy who has to learn almost everything. Undoubtedly there will be stuff to blog about.