I know I have been a slacker in sharing questions and answers. I think I have become too accustomed to answering quickly to so many. Today when I got this plea, it hit me that I needed to share it with others. So I am…with her permission even though I'm not calling her out.
I'm hoping some that are in the wildland life will come help with more suggestions. My suggestions are based on my experience in structure, as a momma of a wildland firefighter and what I've gleaned from others when similar questions have been asked in the group.
Now this woman has a lot of work ahead, so please remember that. I'm excited that she's newly in a relationship and looking to reach out for help already. That's a good sign. I'm pretty sure we can help her through this giant learning curve. Normally, I wouldn't post this much information and especially from a girlfriend. BUT, the questions she came to me with are exactly what I hear from so many wives that have been together longer. So, it's definitely something we need to address as even wives of some time haven't learned to deal with what she's asking.
Her fb message to me:
I am new to this whole Fire Girlfriend thing. He works for the US Forestry. We've seeing each other for a month, but really been together for a week. It's so hard. I understand his passion for his job and I totally support him. But, he's been to fires here in California for a whole month. He doesn't call all day. I don't sleep waiting to hear his call or text message. But this is the longest I haven't heard from him for 3 days now. I just want to cry. Please help. How can I survive this during Fire season? We just started seeing each, other how do you do it. Thanks for listening.
Thanks for contacting me. While on fires it's very common not to hear from them. Some wives go many weeks. Cell batteries can't be charged, they pass out tired after digging & hiking 12-14+ hours or there's no cell service. Our daughter had to hitch a ride into town last year in order to get service on her downtime (she jumped into rigs deployed there) lol No service is most common.
Since you are newly together you need to quickly make lists of what you did before getting together. You need to occupy your time so you don't make yourself crazy for no reason.
You can check out the wild kind of love Facebook page. Chantelle also has a group for spouses and another group open to everyone loving a wff that is active. It's also been recommended to join Spouses & Partners of Wildland Firefighters.
As far as the fear goes. Don't feed into the hype.
Before becoming a ff mine was in commercial construction. He almost died doing that so many times that I had to tell him not to tell me anymore. It was every few months and he worked in the big leagues for 15 years before being hired on as firefighter. FFing is way safer lol Plus he's now doing what he loves. Previously, he could have died on a miserable job that made him angry. If something happens I at least know he was happy.
The what ifs will kill your relationship. So get girls nights planned, hobbies, decorating, side job even?
It's a big adjustment and you came into it at go time. Easing in during off season might have helped you a little lol Or maybe throwing you right in so you have to adjust immediately will end up easier in the long run. It will all get easier from this time forward.
Wildland firefighter wives, what tips do you have for a new girlfriend?
Please seek out the “wild kind of love” group on fb. PLEASE seek out “Spouses & Partners of Wildland Firefighters”. The second group is private & there are close to 1,000 women in that group that completely understand your questions. Support support support is the #1 thing you absolutely HAVE to have in the Wildland world. My Wff has been involved for over 10 yrs now. We have 4 kids & I absolutely love supporting him when he leaves for fires.
Thank you for commenting Kirsten. I’m hoping she will join. I included the links in the blog post so you guys might get some new members coming over 🙂
Thank you so much for this advice. I just started dating a guy who’s a wff and he just left today for fire season. Honestly I’m really sad but I know it’s his job. Your blog helps a lot. Thank you 😊
I can’t say thank you enough for this. I know you are answering another person’s question, but I feel like you were directing it at me and it really is pulling me through a tough time. He’s on his second fire assignment and I have not heard from him in 3 days. It has been taking a toll on me but knowing I am not alone in this and that there is support is great. It is just hard when you miss him. Thank you again for this, it’s really encouraging.
I’m so glad it helps Krishna. There are great groups on FB. I encourage you to join.
I’m new here also in seek of a support group. I’m also a new WFF gf of two months now. We live a couple of hours from each other, so the not seeing him when he’s gone I’m ok with. Communication is huge and he tells me what his week may entail and when he does I ask, “what days are you expecting to leave and come back. How many days.” When he has estimated days given it helps me mentally prepare for those days, taking it one day at a time. Just this past weekend he was getting back sometime Sunday. I sent my morning text and he replied, so I was unsure if he was about to head back or if he got back the night before. Sure enough when we finally talked Tuesday morning, he confirmed he was back Saturday evening. I kept in mind he was tired and had things to catch up on, but I called Sunday evening…no answer no call back. Yesterday I made it known that a call would have been nice even if it would have been a minute. But I had to let it go. I let him know, I told him that once and I’m not going to carry it on because I did feel hurt that he hadn’t called but at least he texted me so I kept that in mind. Even though I know a lot of that time he may not have service or is reserving his battery I still send good morning and good night texts, so he knows that he’s missed and loved. Luckily though I have plenty to keep me busy.
Thank you for sharing the tips Jess 🙂
I’ve been with my ff for a year now & this is his fourth year being a wildland firefighter. When I first met him, he was finishing his 3rd year & towards the end he went on a fire assignment, was gone for two weeks & we couldn’t talk that whole time. Now, after spending the whole fall/winter together everyday, fire season is back & he’s gone a lot. At first, him being gone was really hard for me. Especially since we just spent so long together & now we can’t even talk. I’ve learned that if he doesn’t talk to me than that definitely means that he’s tired, doesn’t have cell service or his phone died. But I also know that someone would reach out to me if something serious happened to him. It’s all a learning game & some days are worse than others, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from all of this is that he can’t be worried about me & our relationship while he’s on a fire because that can cause him to lose focus, which is a higher risk of him getting hurt. Just be patient, keep yourself busy & take things day by day.
Thank you for your advice Chloe 🙂
Wildland is a whole other beast!! I’ve been with my ff for almost 6 years and he did 2 seasons with the USFS and we are in the middle of season 2 with CAL FIRE. It’s hard to remember but know that they would really rather be home with you, friends, and family rather than sleeping in the dirt- but they also love the work and the camraderie and I honestly couldn’t be prouder that I can share my life with someone who truly loves what he is doing. But they truly are trying to do their jobs safely and quickly to get back home to you. Next time your ff is home ask if he knows of any other guy’s wives or girlfriends that you can reach out to when things get tough. Hang in there, stay active in these groups, and don’t hesitate to be authentic with your feelings.
Thanks for sharing Jess 🙂
Stephanie Schreiber says
My hubby was a firefighter when I met him. I was 18; he was 27. He was with USFS. Then not long after we got together, he went to CDF (Now CalFire) for two years. The entire time, he was also a paid on-call/Volunteer with the City of Redding. 24 years ago, he got on with the City full time. With CDF, he was 4/24 on 3/24 off, unless he was on an incident and then I did not hear from him for two to 4 weeks at a time. There were not cell phones on everyone’s hips, back in the “old” days and the lines they were sometimes lucky enough to have at fire camp often had lines, so it was shower, eat, sleep, get up and eat, head back out on the lines. When my FF got on FT with the City, I naively believed that he would be home a lot more. Not the case. While his normal shift is 24 on 24 off for a 7 day rotation and then 4 days off in a row, followed by 24 on 24 off for a 7 day rotation and then 6 days off, he rarely is really off that much due to callbacks (OT). Let me give you an example- in Sept he was home 2 days (48 hours) total. In October, he was home 4 days. Those months were not even fire season here!! When he is off/home, he has things to catch up on and is usually doing those things, and then exhausted on top of it. So my words of wisdom would be: 1) there are a ton of “badge bunnies/hose chasers out there”, trust your Firefighter (unless he has given you reason not to. 2) know that when he is home, no matter how much he loves you, he may have had a horrible shift, may have had little to no sleep, etc. and may be moody. Do not take it personally. Be available and give him love, but space. 3) When he is at work, be it shift work or long term assignment, even if it feels like he is enjoying himself, he would much rather be with his family and sleep in his own bed. It is not an easy gig as a firewife, but it is worth it.
Thanks for sharing your story and tips Stephanie 🙂
I’ve been searching high and low for this! Thank you!! I started dating a wff a couple months ago. Ive done hours of research and found those websites by happenstance when he went radio silent for 5 or 6 days. I knew what fire he was assigned to but that was it. It was rough. Im so excited I found this group! Once you are married in you become part of the fire family, but being new to the scene is a huge learning curve and honestly very lonely.
Glad it helped!
I know this post was uploaded in 2016, and I don’t really know how I found it… But man am I glad that I did! I’m a new wff girlfriend as well (4 months with him currently) and I had no idea how much I needed to see this, so a huge thanks to the author of this post, as well as the brave wff gf who reached out to ask for help and support. He lives a couple hours away from me, and we met towards the end of the previous fire season. I’ve been lucky enough to get to see him quite a bit over the fall/winter months as our relationship began to develop (as it still very much is now). But as this next fire season is right around the corner, I’m beginning to have a bunch of new anxiety over what this might mean for us. I am also graduating college this May and don’t know where life will take me (and again, what that means for us), but starting a career should help keep me busy this season. Even still, I already feel like I don’t see him enough, and am scared of what this new season could bring — living in the land of what ifs, I know… I’m curious, which of the two fb groups would you recommend I join? I could really use the supports of those who either have been through or are going through exactly what I am!
Welcome Sydney, I just updated the post to include the recommended Spouses & Partners of Wildland Firefighters – https://www.facebook.com/groups/spousesandpartnersofwff/
Are there any admins that can approve new members to the group? I haven’t talked to my man in a few days and I’m feeling a little low and looking for some support of other girls going through this.
To which group Sandy? Sorry I didn’t get this earlier. I don’t run the wildland groups.
I’m the girlfriend of a wff we were dating about 5.5 months and it was kind of a slow season this year for him so we made plans to go away for a couple days for my birthday and we were both really excited and then the night before my birthday he got called and he was told they needed to leave in an hour, he’s at the worst fire in the state and I know he’s working hard and I’m trying not to obsess but I can’t help but worry about him. At first he would message me every morning and every night even if we weren’t up at the same time he would check in to let me know he was ok. It’s been two days and I haven’t heard from him. I’ve met some of his buddies that he’s with and I keep telling myself if something major happened one of them would tell me, but then I start thinking,(I have generalized and social anxiety and already over think things) what if our relationship isnt as strong as I thought what if he isn’t texting me cus he’s texting someone else, what if something bad happened to his whole group. And then I go to the Facebook page for the fire he’s at and I see the photos and videos of all the flames and smoke and I just worry more until I feel sick to my stomach and I start chain smoking(I average half a pack a day on a normal but lately I’ve been smoking a pack or more a day). I’m able to manage it most of the day because I work part time and I’m also a single mom (not his but he would help out when he was here) but at night when I’m home and my son is in bed, that’s when it’s hardest for me and often times I’m sitting there waiting to hear from him that he’s ok. When I do hear from him even if it’s just a simple “hey I’m tired so I’m just gonna crash but I’m ok” I’m at least able to breathe a sigh of relief and go to bed. On nights like tonight and last night when I haven’t heard from him at all and it’s past his usual check in time( usually anywhere from 7:30-10:30pm) it’s much more difficult to lay down to sleep. I know he’s not cheating I trust him and I know most if not all my thoughts are just my anxiety I haven’t had to be on meds in over a year because I had learned to manage it without but this is the first time dating a wff and it’s kind of new territory for me. Any tips for getting to sleep on these sleepless nights when there’s not a hobby or work that I can do to keep myself busy? He told me since the first day we met that he could be called away and be gone for anywhere from 14-22 days at a time and I thought I was prepared we had talked about it several times and he had told me there would be times he couldn’t text or call but I am really struggling especially at night, and sometimes I even get nightmares.