And, as he details in his 2018 book, “Spot Fires and Slop-Overs: Memoir of a Firefighter,” Wickham has had enough adventures to, well, fill a book. He was always a kind of prankster among his crewmates, having humorous, not malicious, fun. The book shows a man who both worked and played hard, dousing flames and downing beers in nearly equal measure.
There was the time, early in his career, when he was struck by lightning on the Mogollon Rim. He had been out alone checking out reports of smoke when his tanker got stuck on mud during a monsoon hail storm. Holding a shovel, a bolt of lightning struck a pine 3 feet from Wickham and he was knocked unconscious and a few feet across the forest floor. He suffered temporary electrical paralysis, but the subsequent fear of lightning was permanent.
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Even now, the thought gives him the shivers.
“Oh, hell yeah,” he said. “If it flashes, I’ll flinch. The fear has not gone away. It scared the hell out of me. It rang my bell. I’ve been out in some horrible lightning storms since then, and I’ve entertained a lot of guys laughing at me. Let ‘em laugh. It’s hit close to me several times since then. You can hear a real high-pitched whine when it’s gonna hit close to you. About the time you realize what it is, it’s over. I’m paranoid as hell about lightning, me and my dog both.”
He has no fear, however, of fire. Wickham doesn’t like to dramatize his life but, yeah, he’s had some close calls and been caught in some tricky wildfire situations with his teams. In his 20s, Buck was a little wild and took calculated risks, but after becoming a father and raising his son alone — he moved from the Blue Ridge station near the Mogollon Rim to Flagstaff when Joseph started school — he became more circumspect. Smarter about fighting fires, too.