Monday night, a vaguely familiar man behind the restaurant bar fessed up to being a new employee and deferred our orders to a nearby server.
His task at hand involved drying dozens of glassware. Within the man’s earshot, Jack mentioned it would not be a good time to fly on an airplane. I commented that it would also not be a good time for a major disaster, pointing out that “Past Tense” this week mentioned that 25 years ago, U.S. Forest Service firefighters were dispatched to the Northridge earthquake.
Today, most of our Forest Service employees on the Hill are on furlough, not getting paid, having to find other means to earn money until the impasse is over.
I filled Jack in on my opinions on our USFS employees when the glass dryer interrupted with, “Amen,” and stepped toward us admitting that he is a USFS employee on furlough.
Another USFS employee I know is making garments to sell to earn money.
What has been on my mind for some days now is that out community, months after the Cranston Fire, is forgetting the most vital firefighting group on the Hill — the ones most responsible for initially saving our community from destruction.
At this time of year, seasonal firefighter hiring and training normally takes place. That’s on hold.
Nine stations in and around the San Jacinto Ranger District employ people who serve to protect our forest through not just firefighting, but forestry, wildlife and recreation practices.
You saw the town fill up after the snowfall and then during the Martin Luther King Jr. three-day holiday last weekend. Normally, the Idyllwild Ranger Station would be open to field visitors’ questions and direct them to recreation areas. Personnel would be on the trails and in the forest to enforce laws protecting federal recreation areas.
As it is, we don’t have the personnel infrastructure to handle such a heavy influx of tourists.
USFS employees don’t typically stand out in the community but many live here among us. Many tend to be fraternal and keep to themselves and/or their co-workers/families. You may not even know some of these people are USFS.
Or maybe you do know one or two, or the spouse of one or two, because your kids go to school with their kids. Or you work with the spouse/significant other.
Following the Mountain and Cranston fires, big-bash fundraisers for victims were understandable. Big-bash fundraisers also were held for Idyllwild Fire.
But we’ve now forgotten our USFS employees who live among us — those who helped in the initial and later attacks to save us from wildfire — even making maps for firefighting. They protect the beauty that makes Idyllwild unique. Some of them live paycheck to paycheck but the gap between paychecks is growing.
You cannot drop off donations at the Idyllwild Ranger Station for them because it is not open. But if you happen to know one, or meet one, maybe you can thank them for their service and offer to help in some way.