When I met John Belushi I said, "Nice to meet you." When I saw Brad Pitt in an empty diner, all I did was smile.
But last Wednesday, when J. and I met a bunch of firefighters fresh off the mountain, I said, "You guys are amazing! There's no way to thank you, but thank you!" Then I proceeded to take photo after photo, which they tolerated and even smiled for.
I think they liked the "you guys are amazing" part. I know they liked the "thank you" part, because when we arrived at the gates of the Cobb Estate we'd just missed them posing for photos in front of a hand-made, "Thank You Firefighters" sign hanging on the fence.
The top photo here is a little blurry but I like its haphazardness. Look how young, how tired and how tough they are. And how dirty. They've been through it.
Not to disparage Belushi or Pitt, but movie heroes are heroes of fiction. Firefighters are the real thing. They're not Batman or Spiderman or Transformers. These guys can't fly. When you contemplate the 250 square miles of mountainside that burned in the Station Fire, then think of how tiny even a brave firefighter is against voracious and towering flames, these mere humans are mighty small. But as a team their powers are great.
(Plus Brad Pitt's got nothin' on some, I must say.)
(Aw, cheer up.)
Very nice, thanks.
Where was I?
Ah, yes. So we met these men last Wednesday. They'd been putting out hotspots on steep terrain, just over halfway through a two-week deployment during which they were headquartered at Hansen Dam. That deployment ends today. Welcome home, guys!
Friday, when I saw pyrocumulus clouds above Altadena, I thought about "the guys." Now the firefighters had faces. I started nosing around about Aztec Fire Crew 63 online. Now I'm even more impressed than I was before. These young men have had to fight more than fires. You can read more about Aztec Fire Crews, or watch a video starring a different Aztec Crew.
I'm awed by all firefighters, and Aztec Fire Crew 63 is no exception. They're gentlemen, they were all exceedingly nice and we loved talking to them. As we left, my husband, who can lift a full-sized sofa by himself, said, "We sit at our desks and deal with ideas. These guys go into the mountains and deal with the forces of nature." I can't say it better. They are men of the elements.
Admittedly, there's plenty of hero worship going on around here. But I think the reason we're so impressed with these heroes is that they are, after all, humans.
Damn fine humans.