Firefighter Wives: Caitlin from To Make Love Stay

Your name and age?
Caitlin, 26 

Your occupation? 
Software Training Consultant 

Personal blog/website?

How long has your husband been a firefighter? 
4 months 

What is their ranking within the department?
Wildland Firefighter 

So far, what has been your proudest moment in their career?
Rob and I are from Maine originally, and though he's done a lot of scary things in his life, he'd never had any exposure to wildfires. Despite this lack of knowledge--or, knowing my husband as I do, because of it--he decided to become a wildland firefighter more or less out of the blue. He flew to Colorado on his own to take a class and was in constant contact with the crews he'd applied to. Once he got the job and started working, he distinguished himself, as I knew he would, as an extremely hard worker and a quick learner. I'm always proud of the fact that my husband can step into any role he wants and excel in it by sheer force of will and hard work.

In your opinion, what is the best part about being a part of the firefighter lifestyle?
I don't know if this is true of structure firefighting, but I know that seasonal wildland firefighters make good money and have the flexibility of 6 months off after the fire season. My job is mostly remote and very flexible, so once we're done with fire season Rob and I will have a lot of time to hang out and go on fun trips we've been wanting to take since he got out of the Army.
In your opinion, what is the most difficult about being a part of the firefighter lifestyle?
Oh man, how much time do you have? Since Rob works with wildfires, he's basically on call to go at any time, and the crew can be kept on a fire (or bounce from fire to fire) for a max of 14 straight days, excluding travel time. This spring was absolutely crazy in the southwest, so I think we saw each other for a total of 5 or 6 days in the month of June. It's hard to be married to someone and realize that a group of people you both hardly know see him more often than you do. Also, seasonal wildland firefighters like Rob are not eligible for health insurance benefits; while this isn't an issue for us in particular (due to Rob's vet status and my benefits through my job) it's a real concern for friends of ours who are terrified of getting injured or hurt outside of fire season and being stuck with massive medical bills.

What has been the scariest moment in their career?
Rob was on a wildfire a few weeks ago that required him and his crew to ride a helicopter into nasty terrain. Rob's a combat vet, and I worried about him in Iraq for 13 long months flying around in helicopters, so it was pretty terrifying for me knowing he'd be in the air again. He also wasn't able to call me for about 4 days while on the line, and needless to say I was a wreck. I was so relieved when he finally called to say that he was alive and well (and that the helicopter ride was completely uneventful). 

What do you think is the most misunderstood part of firefighting?
People back home always assume that Rob jumps out of planes, and while he did that in the Army days, he for the most part stays away from planes and helicopters now. I think people also assume that wildland firefighting is extremely dangerous or that Rob is running wildly into flames, and while there are many dangerous aspects, generally the Forest Service does a good job of keeping the firefighters out of harm's way. It's pretty rare, for example, to see a Hotshot like Rob at the "front line" of a fire. If on the news you see firefighters next to flames, it's usually a planned burnout or controlled burn at some distant flank of the fire.