NC Forest Service standing by to fight fires

LEXINGTON, N.C. -- At the North Carolina Forest Service District 10 office in Lexington, Dakota Paris studies the computer screen. She is reviewing weather information to make sure wildfire conditions in our area remain poor.

"This is when our afternoon weather comes in from our weather stations," said Paris.

But she is also thinking about the fire conditions in Arizona and Utah. Paris and three to four other North Carolina Forest Service members based in Davidson County are on stand by. At anytime they could be called to join the hundreds of firefighters that are working to put out the flames that are burning across the western United States.

"It can be a little nerve-racking," Paris said, "A lot of us get our bags packed and get ready and we sit there and wait. Sometimes we get the call and sometimes it`s two weeks before we get to go out."

When the call comes, Paris has to be prepared for anything. She could be a part of a team that works on a fire truck similar to the ones at her Lexington office.

"You are going to have a tank of some sort, an engine to operate the pump and a hose reel to use to extinguish the fire." Paris said.

Or her assignment could be to position crews and map their progress. So she has packed plenty of extension cords and cables for her computer along with lots of office supplies.

"We have dry erase capability," Paris said, "We try to bring pens, markers, whatever we can get our hands one. GIS mappers like rubber bands. We go through a lot of rubber bands."

Once on site, the days are 12 to 14 hours long. Plus the working conditions are tough. But Paris feels the two-week assignment is worth it.

"We like what we do and we like to help," said Paris, "But it`s really humbling to be thanked all the time by people who are receiving the help."