There's one pair of kicks in that pile that almost never get worn, yet account for more of the cowhide than anything else in the closet (aside from perhaps Courtney's black, knee-high bitch boots.) These Ariat work boots were bought in 2004 specifically to fit the footwear requirements for wildland firefighting, which they only sort of do*. As a park ranger at the time, I was able to take classes and qualify as a wildland firefighter (it got me out of work for a whole week, so why not), which in turn gave me the opportunity to work in wildfire fighting and suppression if needed. This was made out to sound like the ultimate in cool by the full-time firefighters that worked in the park, not only for the awesomeness of watching a 150-foot pine tree being consumed by flame, but also for things like helicopter rides and massive overtime pay on top of hazard pay.
And of course there was the risk of being burned alive in a flash-over.
So now I've got this nice, blue-collar pair of boots that I can wear if I ever want to go drink a Budweiser with the common man.
But I never went on a fire. That first season the call simply never came, and my second season I took the class to get re-certified (just to miss work) but decided not to bother with the physical fitness test because I didn't want any fires to mess with my weekends, since my weekends were the whole point of being out there. The third year I just ignored the idea entirely, but ironically ended up earning some overtime one day helping to transport materials back from a firefighters' basecamp nearby. That was fun.
The closest I came to being a firefighter was on a training day they called "Fire Days" even though it was just one day. Since the best practice is doing, the firefighting crew set some spot fires in the woods near the park superintendent's house and had us go out in our Nomex outfits and dig line around all the fires. They also drilled us on the worst-case scenario, which is having to deploy emergency fire shelters. A fire shelter is essentially a personal tinfoil pup tent, only slightly more effective than a prayer. The whole drill was pretty realistic, aside from the absence of a quickly advancing wall of flame, and they first notified us by radio that the imaginary wind had switched around and the fire was now coming our way. We started off at a trot, Pulaskis in hand, heading for the predetermined safe zone. Then they told us to drop our tools and flat out sprint or die. When we got to the deployment area, where they had big fans set up to make getting in the shelters more difficult and realistic, we threw open our shelters (kept at all times on a firefighter's person; rule #1) and dove for safety on the wet, cold earth.
*Basically, the boots had to be at least 8 inches high and could not have a steel shank or steel toes, as metal tends to get really hot in a fire, or anything that would melt. I got mine off the clearance rack for $75. If you knew you were going to spend some time around a wildfire, you'd instead drop $400 on these beauties.