TOWNSEND -- For Brian Mayer, putting out fires is both a job and a passion. "It's a challenge. If you like challenging yourself it's the way to go. But you also love it," Mayer said.
Mayer, with the Townsend Fire Department and the state's Interagency Wildfire Crew, returned last month from the Montana-Idaho border, where he was on a three-week assignment putting out wildfires.
Mayer has been working as a firefighter since 1997, first in West Groton and now in Townsend, and said he is particularly passionate about fighting brush fires.
Last year was his first year traveling with the Wildfire Crew. This year, he went on three trips -- two to Quebec and one to Montana.
To join the crew, Mayer had to take a 40-hour class and meet a minimum standard of traveling three miles in 45 minutes carrying a 45-pound pack.
Mayer said the conditions in Canada are very different from fighting wildfires here, due to the density of the forest and the amount of downed trees.
"It's pretty tedious. It's more of a mental game looking for smoke, because you don't see flames up there," he said.
"It's a lot of maneuvering around stuff like timber logs and cutting your way through. It's a seek-and-destroy mission."
In Montana, he said, the tactics are similar to wildfire conditions in other U.S. locations, with more active fires.
While there, he said the crews spread out across different areas of the forest, which was so big that it took two hours to drive across.
"The roads are mountain roads, and getting to the fire is a hike. It's important to keep yourself mentally ready, because you don't have time off. The only time you're not thinking about it is when you are asleep," he said.
Though they slept outside most nights, Mayer said being able to stay in a hotel room at one point in the trip was a highlight.
But as much as he loves putting out fires, his favorite part of fighting wildfires is working with his fellow firefighters.
"The camaraderie with the crew is the best thing. We're all spread out throughout the state, so it's great to see the guys you don't see on a daily basis," he said.
Townsend Fire Chief Donald Klein said that working with Mayer has been a positive force in the Townsend Fire Department.
"Brian's a real go-getter. He's the type of person you'd want on your team. He's dedicated, and he doesn't need a lot of direction. You give him a task and he sets out to do it. He always finds a way to get it done," Klein said.
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