Hold and Improve

A collection of short stories from the fireline.

There’s something about this job that keeps us committed to the beautiful misery of it all. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what it is, but we can feel it when we’re out on the fireline. This work isn’t for everyone; in fact, it’s hardly for anyone. But for the select few who truly get this job and find it second nature to endure the harsh environment, the long hours, the discomfort, and the pain; well, the rewards are intangible at best… But you can expect to be repaid in ways you’d never imagine.

To find yourself filled with a sense of purpose and pride, to be part of the unshakable camaraderie within your crew that will last far longer than any one fire season, to end up in places so secluded that you’ll swear you are the only people who have ever touched that piece of earth, to be pushed to the furthest ends of your physical and mental capacity, to witness beauty so profound it is simply unspeakable; all of these seemingly random experiences on the fireline end up morphing into what will somehow become the fondest memories of your lifetime.

This is us. This is the Fire Family.

What is “Hold and Improve?

Hold and Improve is a tribute to the storytelling culture of Wildland Firefighting. It is a collection of short stories as told by Wildland Firefighters from all facets of the fire world with varying years of firefighting experience and from all across the nation. It is the essence of everything that was just described above, combined with countless other unique aspects of the fire culture. The book is small, it’s packable, and it’s ready to be shoved into your pack for those moments when you hear that familiar message, “HOLD AND IMPROVE” passed down the line. It is also meant to be passed between crewmembers and talked about around the warming fire back at spike camp. Hold and Improve will come in volumes. Each volume offering new and relatable stories with different focal points of the fire world and the culture within it.

Submit your Story

Hold and Improve is created by firefighters, for firefighters, and some of the proceeds from each sale will go to organizations that support Wildland Firefighters. But none of this can move forward without your story.

Not a good writer, or speller for that matter? It’s not about that. If you have an incredible story to share, we can help you get it on paper. Although the preference is a written submission, we will accept audio recordings of your story as a submission.

Submission Topics:

Rookie Move! Offer up your embarrassing rookie moments that had folks shaking their head and/or laughing at your expense. (We’ve all got em’!)

My First Fire: Everyone remembers their first fire, some are crazier than others.

Photo Submissions of Original Artwork: Black and White Only (Charcoal, Chalk, Pen, Marker, Pencil Sketches, Watercolor, Cartoon Graphics, etc.)

Poetry: Poetry specific to aspects of wildfire.

Our Culture: Examples: The Legend of Big Ernie, The history of “The Big Flip”, The Story of Ed Pulaski, unique traditions on your crew, etc. (If you provide stories that are historical and or/ “legend”, please let us know where you sourced your information. An old salty firefighter is considered a valid source in the fire world… maybe you are the salty old firefighter and you can source yourself! )

Old School: Stories from the days of old school firefighting; before Smartphones, Map Apps, Jetboils, or even GPS’!

Animal Encounters: Wild stories dealing with Wild Animals.

Woah… That was intense: Unreal, unbelievable, but true.

Holy Shit! I can’t believe that just happened!: Everything was normal and then…

Funny: The funniest moments on the fireline

We were on our way when… From being redirected to other incidents, to rigs breaking down en route, or getting hung up by a cattle drive, etc. all sorts of things can happen when you’re on your way…

Fire Camp Mayhem: Sometimes you just can’t make up the types of things that happen in fire camp.

Insane Medical Extractions Gone-Right: A place to highlight the smooth and successful extractions of gnarly injuries.

Aviation Related Stories: Whenever you get aircraft involved the level of intensity gets turned up a notch and all sorts of crazy things can happen. Puking can happen too… lots of puking.

Pregnant on the Fireline: There are few women in the “pregnant on the fireline” club but each one of them surely has an awesome story to share.

Additional Submissions:

Tips, Tricks, and Tweaks: Think about all the hacks you’ve come up with in your fire career and share the best one.

Earth friendly practices in the fire world: Share your tips with the rest of the fire community.

If you don’t know…. Now you know: Share healthy insights, explain how to identify certain tree/plant/fungi species in the wild, define random fire terminology, etc.

Moonlighting: Wildland Firefighters tend to have many skillsets and talents, and some end up throwing their energy into a side business. Submit a blurb about yourself and your side business, we may just highlight you in a volume of Hold and Improve.

Random: We can’t think of everything… submit fire your story that somehow falls through the cracks of all of these topics.

Rules for Submissions:

  1. Any submission that is disparaging to any group/type of people including other entities in fire will be discarded.
  2. Story submissions must be 2,500 words or less (preferably less).
  3. Pen names are acceptable in the publication, but not for the submission (Alias names to protect anonymity).
  4. While traumatic stories are impactful and important, there are other outlets to highlight those stories and therefore, we ask that you do not submit traumatic stories.
  5. All submissions are provided voluntarily, not for monetary gain.
  6. Not all submissions will end up in a volume of Hold and Improve. Each volume will be crafted with the best compilation of stories possible, unfortunately, not every story will be a good fit. You will be contacted if your story is selected.

Submission Details and Deadline:

Submissions must be written in a Word document (rather than in the body of the email) with the email heading, “(Insert your last name)- Submission”. It would lessen the work on our end significantly if submitters use Grammarly or a similar program that can assist you with spelling and punctuation prior to submission. For audio submissions please use Voice Recorder or a similar app to share your story.

Submissions will be accepted between November 1st and February 1st and can be submitted to theevolvingnomad@gmail.com

Where Can I Buy Hold and Improve?

The anticipated release date for Volume Alpha of Hold and Improve will be in the Spring of 2022; just in time to grab a copy and shove it into your line gear before heading out for the season. More details to come.