In addition to chiropractic practice and tai chi chuan I have a private contracting business in wildland fire suppression (see the pic of my truck as it looked just before this year’s inspection in the May20 blog).
This year we were called to Montana and worked there for just over three weeks: 14 days on followed by 2 days R&R followed by another 7 days working. There are several reasons for me doing the fire business. One is get out of my usual life and get a chance to see new places, have new experiences and find out what other people are up to and how other people live their lives. This year was unique because it was the first time we were ever called out of our Region (Oregon and Washington) and it was the first time I had actually worked that long on a fire. (Usually my crew works most days while I give them days off now and then and support them in whatever way is needed.)
So what’s there to blog about? Well, I have to blog about something and there were several things that struck me during this incident. I’m going to list them here in case there is something of interest.
First and most significantly, I discovered that my tai chi chuan training throughout the year does prepare me well for firefighting. The firefighting environment can sometimes be extreme (smoke, dust, heat, darkness, bugs, altitude, the fire, etc.). The working conditions can also be extreme at times (very long hours, poor sleep in a tent because of noise, heat, cold, rain, etc and the very nature of scrambling around on steep hillsides dragging fire hose up or down and working on the end of shovels and polaskis for up to 16 hours a day – day after day after day, etc).
Tai chi training one-to-two hours per day is a fine way to prepare for that kind of demanding work. Beyond the obvious physical demands, which are significant there are several other related factors where tai chi played a role. In a smoky dusty environment it is best to breath only through your mouth even if that is extremely difficult because of exertion – tai chi teaches that; everyone ends up extremely fatigued and everyone has to deal with that – tai chi teaches how to learn from fatigue; there are a multitude of aches and pains, scraps and strains encountered (or that may be encountered) on a daily basis on a fire. Our bodies have to be able to repair, recover and be restored (in six or seven hours) so that we can do it again the next day – tai chi through its beneficial effects on the immune system helps make that possible.
Other lessons? Well, three plus weeks spent with the same two guys dawn until dark is a challenge no matter how well you think you’re going to get along. Tai chi helped there too, but that’s probably too subtle to explain.
Montana (the part we were in anyway between Kallispell and Libby) is a very interesting place. Very pretty country, very nice people, and a lot of game – we saw about everything except a moose. The state, it was said, still has less than a million people. My favorite place was a small town called Thompson Falls, which we went through on a short cut from Highway 2 to Interstate 5.
One of the last lessons came to me when I got back to Everett. After three weeks with no cell reception, no computer, and no TV or radio to speak of I found that I get by just fine without TV.