I show up early in full hotshot regalia-fire-resistant pants and shirt, rugged leather boots, a hard hat, leather gloves, and an equipment-laden backpack-and immediately we're off to the backcountry. I carry a Pochna-a collapsible hoe for digging and clearing. Others carry chainsaws, leaf blowers, and a collection of custom-made tools including Pulaskis (combination ax and hoe) and McLouds (combination rake and hoe). We clear a 100-yard strip of forest in 2 hours. Then the imaginary fire comes. I'm exhausted.