note: Matt Mireles, an undergrad at UC Berkeley, will be
filing regular dispatches from the field this summer.
DIEGO COUNTY I'm an undergrad in Berkeley's Interdisciplinary
Studies program, concentrating my course work on "narrative
journalism." This summer, I am working for the California
Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF), fighting
fires in California. I will have stories to tell.
Fire fighting is an adventure that I dreamed of long ago.
In truth, this is not about pursuing the story or getting
a new angle on things. Fighting fire is something I love
to do this will be my second season. And as a journalist,
I think that this angle is the best one of all. Good journalism
is honest, fresh and sincere. And when most people write
about firefighters, they tend to describe them as noble
heroes or warriors. Yes, these labels are well intentioned
and sometimes even accurate, but firefighters are subject
to all the follies, contradictions, and intricacies that
affect the rest of us. Too many writers miss this.
I hope to do is to tell you about people who live extraordinarily
interesting lives. They put themselves in some very exciting
and hazardous situations, sometimes endangering their own
lives to protect the life, property, and resources of the
Southern California fire season is several months ahead
of schedule. Over 110,000 acres have already burned, nearly
three times the average for this time of year. Rainfall
is at a record low for the entire region. Governor Gray
Davis has signed legislation to add an extra man to each
CDF fire engine, totaling four firefighters per engine instead
of three. My job with the CDF San Diego Ranger Unit is the
product of this legislation.
looks to be the worst fire season on record. Drought continues
to harrow the West. I am both scared and excited.