Do Hotshot's actually need sleep?
It’s hard for me to add up the number of times I’ve seen the living dead on the fire line. Grown men and women managing to function at the highest level even after being awake for 39 of 42 hours… again and again. Mutterings of “I’m fine” as their eyes focus on an imaginary horizon 300 miles away. Bodies swaying in a non existent breeze while the heels of their worn leather boots keep them upright on uneven terrain. “I’m fine.”
We were in the Southwest and had just rolled into a cluttered mess of engines, district trucks, and groups of haggard men looking for the “right maps”. Things were moving fast and we quickly left the staging area to chase the flanks around rural mountain side neighborhoods. It was quickly known that we were going to pull an all-nighter. For the next 29 hours+ we did structure triage and dug line for miles for an indirect burn that never materialized. Headlamps darted back and forth as sleepless bodies in yellow and green government issued rags tried to decide what number or color went with defensible or non defensible spaces.
But the one thing that sticks out more than any other was when the sun came up. An old pickup truck pulled up filled with fresh breakfast burritos just as we labored back into this mountain village. Spirits were high and confidence was booming because we realized we could do anything. We beat the laws of Nature, we broke down barriers of fictional sleeping patterns, we were invincible. As we were all handed the lone warm comfort of calories wrapped in flour…
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