When Your Kid Chooses a Dangerous Career

As I’m sure many of you are aware, yesterday, an air tanker fighting the fires in Australia, crashed, killing the crew.


Fly firefighting air tankers is my 16 year old son’s singular goal in life.

I’ve had a lot of family and friends tell me this is a dangerous career.  Yes, I know.  They ask how I feel about his career choice.  I say I’m supportive of it.  They kind of look at me in wonder.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m still supportive of his career goals.

But the crash gave me pause.   It hit closer to home for some reason.

Evan has always been interested in aviation.  My Dad is a private pilot and has a plane, so he was exposed to it early.  One late afternoon several years ago, we were on our way to a Scout meeting.  A large fire was raging in neighboring Mendocino County and air tankers were flying in and out of our local Cal Fire Air Attack base.  As we were driving, a huge (and I mean . . . huge) air tanker roared over our head so low, it startled me and I was like, “what the heck was that??” as I stared through my sun roof.

That, Evan said, is what I want to do.  He was hooked.  And has remained so since that day.

So, eventually, he started flying lessons.  In late March, he will finish up his private pilot licenses in both fixed wing (airplanes) and rotary (helicopters).  You think its hard to watch your kid drive off in a car for the first time by themselves?  Yeah, try watching them fly away in an airplane and then a helicopter by themselves for the first time.  He completed his solo flights in both airplanes and helicopters on his 16th birthday, before he got his driver’s license.

The other day I heard a helicopter.  I went outside . . . yep, it was Evan, circling the house.

When Air Tanker 134 crashed yesterday, Evan got a text from a friend, letting him know about the accident.  He’s made a lot of contacts in the industry.  Maybe that’s why it hit close . . . it was clear to me that he’s IN this, he knows people in the industry, he’s already a part of that community.

It was quiet in the car as he texted back, “Any survivors?”.


I asked Evan if he was sure that’s what he wanted to do.  Maybe he’d like to find a less dangerous pilot job.  “No way.” he said.  And we talked about it.  “There are many, many air tanker pilots who go their entire careers without crashing or even having some sort of incident” he argued.  I acknowledged that he was correct in that statement.

Aahhhh . . . to be 16 and invincible.

When I tucked him into bed (yep, I still tuck him in most nights), I asked if he was upset about the crash.  “No.  You seem to be way, way more upset about it than I am.” he told me.

Well, he’s certainly right about that.




Its been quite awhile since I’ve posted.  Yet again, everything I was doing, got interrupted.  In case you didn’t hear, we had a bit of a major fire here in the North Bay area of California.

On Monday, October 9, my Mom called us at 3:00 a.m. to say there was a fire nearby and she thought that maybe she should leave.  Having no clue what was actually going on, Husband and I woke up the kids, decided to take two trucks so my Mom could take whatever she wanted from her house, and headed over.

We turned on the radio as we drove to her house and began to get a first inkling of the disaster which was unfolding.  When we arrived at her house, the magnitude of the fires became clear.


That’s a photo I took from her front porch.  The neighborhood approximately 5 blocks from her house would wind up being leveled.  The explosions we kept hearing were propane tanks exploding.

In the face of that, I took my Mom through her house, room by room, to choose what to take.  She would point to an item and one of our kids would take it and put it in a truck.  Everyone was calm and efficient.

We could hear the fire getting closer so it was time to leave.  After a brief discussion of how best to get out of the neighborhood, we jumped in our cars and joined the line of people streaming out.


It was really smokey!  I have to say though, everyone was polite, patient, helpful and scared.

We did make it out safely.  Our house was never threatened.  My Mom’s house thankfully was unharmed.  We spent the next few days watching the disaster grow.

At this point, things are beginning to return to some sort of normal.  The fires are nearing containment; mandatory evacuation orders have been lifted; roads are re-opening; many schools are back in session.

The statistics from our county are staggering:  1 in 10 people in the county were evacuated at some point in time.  Upwards of 2,800 residences destroyed, as well as businesses, schools, wineries, hotels and a few iconic landmark buildings.  Two of our three hospitals were evacuated (one of those two has reopened.)  I believe the death toll currently stands at 23.

We were one of the lucky ones.  Our direct impact was limited to having my Mom with us for a week and taking in our friends’ two dogs.  My kids were out of school for awhile – my high schooler went back Tuesday; my middle schooler should go back Monday.  My work is still closed.

There are many, many who have suffered devastating impacts.  My heart goes out to all of them.