Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Aztec Fire Crew 63

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.

Smokey? Bear?

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.

28 comments:

Cafe Observer said...

Great daily photos, P. One of your very best posts!

When I saw Petrea I said, "Finally! Here she comes. Oh hide - she has a camera!"

magiceye said...

a wonderful tribute to the heroes!
great job!

Shell Sherree said...

Beautifully expressed, Petrea! And that's a heck-of-a-smile you coaxed from exhibit number 3. They are all awesome. {Err, was Boz with you? My wv is dogin.}

Virginia said...

What fine "hunky" heroes you found! Whooeeee, I think i"m having a hot flash! Great tribute P.
V

Jean Spitzer said...

Beautiful portraits, and the Aztec website is interesting. Great program to know about: training heroes.

altadenahiker said...

Love this! And Virginia made me laugh. She's right -- they're gorgeous in so many way ways, including the usual.

J+P said...

In this a bad time to admit it was a Barbie™ couch?

Margaret said...

You have the makings of a calendar, Petrea.

Vanda said...

Hunky firefighters rule!

Petrea said...

CO, you're making me laugh!

Merci, magiceye.

Shell, Boz was with us. He loves big, hunky men who smell like smoke. Seriously.

Ha ha, Virg, you know these guys are hot flash experts.

"Training heroes." I like the way you put it, Jean.

Hiker, I thought of you when we were talking to them because you said, regarding firefighters, that they're "invariably nice" or something like that. Very gracious men.

Margaret, I think Vanda would buy a copy of the calendar. I have July and August here. A good start.

If anyone thinks their thank yous go unnoticed, think again. They mean a lot, at least to this crew, and I don't doubt that all other crews who saw the sign paused to read it, too.

Desiree said...

Hmmm, this brings back rhythms of the Village People: "Macho, macho man, I want to be a macho man..."
( I want to meet?)

Linda Dove said...

Great photos, P. I am very grateful for the job the firefighters do.

Just to mix things up a bit, and because I'm a natural contrarian, I should mention that my stepson (age 22) is a hotshot firefighter based in Colorado. He is also a quite unreformed tagger...

Human, indeed.

Petrea said...

Sure, Des, as long as we're comparing them to the macho men and not to the Village People.

Linda, I should probably check my hero worship a little bit. I'd be shocked if there was a single perfect firefighter out there. If your hot-shot stepson gets arrested for tagging, does he get off for good firefighting behavior?

Anonymous said...

These guys are calling for thier own callendar. Awesome

pasadenapio said...

The final photo is so poignant. It says it all.

Linda Dove said...

You know, Petrea, he's a true tagging believer, just as you are an opposer. He'd gladly be arrested (although to my knowledge, never has been) and be quoting from Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang the whole way through booking....

Susan C said...

It must be true what my friend Jim says. Fire fighters have to pass a cute test. It's getting hot in here.

Above the City said...

Thank you firemen and firewomen!!

maria said...

this is rockin' awesome Mz. P. they are truly heros.

Lady J said...

I LIKE THIS---before I even read your true hero comment, that is exactly what I thought!

Katie said...

Excellent post Petrea. I'm with Pasadenapio -- that last photo really choked me up. I hope the rains arrive early this year to give all these heroic firefighters the chance to breathe a little easier.

Bellis said...

Petrea, your firefighter photos have been linked to the truly wonderful Altadenablog site. Fame!!!

Petrea said...

As the Station Fire is (I hope) winding down, new ones have flared up today in Ventura and Riverside. Some rain would be nice. And no wind.

Thanks for the alert, Bellis. I won't be coy. I emailed Tim; I thought he might be interested because his own "thanks" from altadenablog is visible in the last photo! Altadenablog is indeed awesome. It was Tim Rutt and the community forum he provided at altadenablog.com that gave us all a place to go for news during the fire. No other media outlet held a candle to Altadenablog.

Linda, I lived in a home with a fence that was tagged almost daily for two years before we finally just moved. I guess there are different forms of tagging--some artistic, some gang-related, some for a greater purpose. I don't know where the line is drawn. I just know my home was defaced on a regular basis so I'm not exactly the go-to gal for objectivity on the subject!

I'm glad folks like this post. I sure enjoy having these photos on the blog. Thanks for your visits and comments, everybody.

Michael Coppess said...

I saw this post early today and wanted to leave a comment before the day's done. Great piece on so many many levels. Probably some awesome stories among that Aztec Fire Crew. Thank you firefighters.

Colleen said...

Great post! I used to work out at the La Canada Y, in the mornings when they had daycare for my then-toddler, but it was as much because that's when the firefighters worked out as it was because of the daycare!

Thanks for sharing! I'll repost....

Petrea said...

Thanks, Colleen.

Bernadette Joolen, Beautiful Dreamer... said...

oh, petrea! not to miss the main point of your blog, but you've got a good eye.=)

Petrea said...

Thanks, B!