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Marked As Safe: Firefighters Are My Heroes

I'm in the very northern geography of Humboldt County, CA, in the city of Eureka. It's coastal, rural, beautiful, and wild. It never gets hot and is super temperate in these summer months, with the average day about 65 degrees. But just to the east, over the hills and mountain ranges lie the inland ranges. Temperatures there get well up into the 100s. With continued drought conditions in California, high winds, and kindling like grass, conditions are perfect for fire.

I was supposed to leave Humboldt County in the middle of July, and head northeast to Siskiyou County. There, I would start over with the process of recruiting primary care providers into our ECHO program, teaching them how to treat hepatitis C (HCV) in their own communities. Turns out, Siskiyou County was on fire, so I turned my attention to Mendocino County, just south of Humboldt. Just a few days after I made that decision, Mendocino County caught fire in two places, and now those fires are threatening to connect.

Wildfire is not new. In fact, it's expected. Most often, they are started by humans, but occasionally they can start via natural phenomena. According to National Geographic, natural wildfires are often harmful and destructive to humans, but they play an integral role in nature. They return nutrients to the soil by burning dead or decaying matter. They also act as a disinfectant, removing disease-ridden plants and harmful insects from a forest ecosystem. And by burning through thick canopies and brushy undergrowth, wildfires allow sunlight to reach the forest floor, enabling a new generation of seedlings to grow. So, there's some good in them. But, they are overall, terrifying and devastating.

Since before 9/11, I've appreciated firefighters. They are the ultimate badasses. And, as a bonus, they are often good-looking because they have to be fit to do their heroic work. When you need them, you need them. They show up, and handle it. And that's what they're doing, as I write this. To the north, east, and south of me, they fight the raging summer fires of California.

They risk life and limb to do what they do. Their daunting audacity allows me to mark myself as safe, as fire rages around me. When I lived in Noe Valley (San Francisco), I would occasionally bake goodies for the local fire department to simply say, THANK YOU. I found them to be humble, regular guys who looked at fighting fire as their job. No hoopla, no fanfare. That's just what they do. But I beg to differ. They serve us in our time of greatest need, with selflessness and unmatched bravery.

Take the time to thank a firefighter. Bake some goodies. Drop a note. Make a donation. Because, no matter what, they're gonna show up if you need them.

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