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Published: Wednesday, 8/15/2007

Firefighter gears up for Antarctica duty

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Mark Bucher was one of the 50 who were chosen from a pool of more than 200 applicants. Mark Bucher was one of the 50 who were chosen from a pool of more than 200 applicants.
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Mark Bucher is looking forward to being a firefighter on the world's only frozen continent, where people rarely stay for long and wind chills plunge down to 70 degrees below zero.

Though the weather on Antarctica can be brutal, Mr. Bucher, 34, said he sees working on the world's coldest and windiest continent as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"I'm more excited than anything," he said from his home in Oregon. "I'm not big on the heat. I like cold."

He leaves tomorrow for his seven-month assignment as a firefighter, emergency medical technician, and inspector during Antarctica's austral summer from October through February.

"Yes, they have fires on the ice," Mr. Bucher said. "It's the driest and windiest continent in the world, and if a fire were to start, it would go really quick because conditions are ideal."

He was one of 50 firefighter-EMTs chosen from more than 200 applicants to go to Antarctica through the Raytheon Polar Services Co. of Centennial, Colo., said Kimberly Jones, the company's manager for recruiting.

The company's main function is to support the U.S. Antarctic Program, run by the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs. The program is dedicated to sustaining the Antarctic environment and funding scientists who conduct research in Antarctica.

The firehouse is where firefighter and EMT Mark Bucher will work 24-hour shifts every other day until March. The firehouse is where firefighter and EMT Mark Bucher will work 24-hour shifts every other day until March.
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Mr. Bucher is headed to the McMurdo Station to work 24-Program, run by the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs. The program isdedicated to sustaining the Antarctic environment and funding scientists who conduct research in Antarctica.

Mr. Bucher is headed to the McMurdo Station to work 24-hour shifts every other day until March. There will be constant daylight during the months he s there. The most balmy Antarctica ever gets during its summertime is a cool 50 degrees.

With more than 100 buildings and about 1,000 inhabitants during the summer months, McMurdo is the New York City of Antarctica, said Val Carroll, spokesman for the antarctic program.

People like to get away from the bustle of the U.S. routine for a few months, she said. It definitely is an adventure.

Along with research facilities, there are three bars, a bowling alley, a library, a church, and a place to rent DVDs or attend educational classes and science lectures. There are also opportunities to go hiking or cross-country skiing. There s plenty of things to do off-duty, Mr. Bucher said. If you re bored, there s something wrong with you.

To go to Antarctica for the next seven months, the Oregon bachelor had to get permission for a leave of absence from his many places of employment.

His full-time job is as an EMT for MedCorp. When he s not there, he s working part-time for the Waterville Fire Department.

During his free time, he volunteers for the Oregon Volunteer Fire Department and answers calls that come to Fire Station No. 3 on Bay Shore Road because he lives next door.

And during the school year, he s an assistant lab instructor at Owens Community College. There, he assists students learning about EMS through hands-on activities.

The McMurdo research station is situated along the coastline of Ross Island in Antartica. The McMurdo research station is situated along the coastline of Ross Island in Antartica.
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After boarding a plane tomorrow, Mr. Bucher will spend the weekend in Denver for orientation and additional safety training. He ll then make a stop in Los Angeles before going to New Zealand to receive his extreme cold-weather gear. After two days there, he ll finally be off to Antarctica.

I get to do traveling, he said. I ve never been out of the country except for Canada.

But he ll have to travel by himself because no family or friends are permitted to visit while he s on his new assignment. When you re down there, you re down there, he said. I ve got a lot of friends who are jealous, saying they would do it.

Though he s scheduled to return to the United States on March 18, he said he plans to make a detour to Australia first for a well deserved vacation.

I m just counting down the days now, he said.



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