The Illusive Rx Unit

by: Lilianne Kinne  

In order to tell my great story for April, I have to start by going back in time several months. Back to October and November, where I, like so many ERT members before me spent several bone-chillingly cold weeks trudging through knee-high snow, up some of the steepest longest hills in Missouri, climbing waterfalls, and forging rivers, all to clear perhaps one of the most challenging firelines in all ERT history. For years ERT members have been hiking, sawing, blowing, clearing and re-clearing these miles of track that is the Taum Sauk Mountain State Park burn unit fireline.

Then, fast forward in time to the fateful day of April 16, when my team leader got the same call that so many teams have gotten before us, they were ready to burn Taum Sauk and our team was on stand-by. As I mentioned earlier, we have not been the first team that has been told they were going to help burn Taum Sauk. Many teams before us have been told this, and many teams have packed up their gear and arrived at Taum Sauk ready to burn, but zero teams have ever actually burned this illusive unit, for at least the last 15 years, anyway. So we decided not to get our hopes up yet, even as we drove back to St. Louis to pick up another team member and of course, Bruce Bailey, and even as we drove to Taum Sauk, early in the morning of April 17th, and even as we drove into the park to meet up with the rest of the burn crew.


Photo Credit: Eric Shearrer

It wasn't until we were going over the JHA and the burn plan that I allowed myself to believe that we were actually going to burn Taum Sauk burn unit. And WE DID!, and it was glorious. Although the hike was intense, and my main job was suppression operations (i.e. holding line; which we all know is not the most exciting of the prescribe burn jobs) and we only burned the north half of the unit, it was still an epic day and so satisfying.

I am so happy I got to be a part of this burn that so many of my fellow ERT members, and so many Alumni before me have helped to prepare. I wish they all could have been there to help out with the burn. But I think how flawlessly the burn went is a testament to all of the hard work every one of them has done to make such a secure fireline. And I dedicate this great story to every ERT member who has worked on Taum Sauk, and who has helped to make this burn possible.