Silas barreled through the open air.His chute deployed with a fabric slide and billowed jerk.Breath escaped his chest. He adjusted his joints and settled inthe harness. Alone with the wind. The great expansive ecstasy.
He angled toward the drop zone, the only suitable spot withinhiking distance of the radio tower where an injured technician lay. A billowing column grew from the forest nearby. He mapped the
fire in his mind, taking mental pictures of its size and perimeter,
making out the shape of the radio repeater perched atop a wooded
knoll. The closest rescue-equipped helicopter faced an hour and
a half response time. Chances were that by the time it arrived the
lack of visibility from the smoke would hamper efforts. At its current rate of spread, the fire threatened to crest theridge before Silas’s team could get there.Silas sighted the meadow clearing Warren had aimed himtoward. Earth approached fast. He brought his boots together,hit the ground, and rolled. In one motion he made his kneesand gathered in his chute arm over arm.He breathed in the smell of earth and evergreen and burn-ing sage.Fifty feet from him, chute flapping, Peña landed and rolled.Silas shook down his jumpsuit, shouldered his fireline pack, andstrode to the clearing edge.Their window was slim. If winds picked up late that after-noon, and they always did, the opportunity for rescue wouldnarrow even further.