Cariboo wildland crews CIFAC 12 and CIFAC 14 were among those inspiring Peter Navratil’s poetry as he worked on wildfires in the region this summer. Photo submitted

Firefighter poet recalls hard times and hard work

Working Hands

Hard and scared, skin cracked and rough looks tough as hell

Grime permanently etched like hide stretched over muscle

Cuts still sting.

Filled with dirt they hurt with every fist clenched and fingers stretched to pick up a Jerry,

Carry to a pump site; Can’t fight fire without water right?

Released like a claw

Wrist pain from running saw.

Completely black at the end of a 16

They are our most important machine.

Blister over blister on the underside of every palm

Stay calm keep trying; Knots need untying

Time is precious but our fingers won’t take directions

Stiff and torn no time to heal before morn

It’s back to the grind, get up by sheer power of mind

Not sure if they can keep going but they do.

Because right now more than ever they absolutely have to.

Peter Navratil

Ghost Town

My city is a ghost town

There is nobody here


Street corners I knew so well

Can’t see through the smoke

Every bright colour grey

The fires are close and we know it

Passing empty streets to put them out

Ads are useless and insensitive

My city is a ghost town

There is nobody here


I can’t see the sky

Homes empty

My throat is raw

My fingers are bleeding

We work another day

Self-made mochas in the morning

My city is a Ghost town

There is nobody here


Red and Blue lights flashing

We are waved through road blocks

Working longer days than I am awake

Surviving off trail mix

Can’t live here but yet we really do live

What we really do people don’t see

My city is a ghost town

There is nobody here

There is nobody here

Peter Navratil