Ami Kreider has tried to reconcile her two lives.
For most of the year, the library assistant lives a life focused around books and the Astoria Library community. During the summer, she fights forest fires with the Oregon Department of Forestry.
She loves fiction — the worlds authors build for readers to disappear inside. Then there’s the physical work, the time outdoors, the adventures that draw her to firefighting.
“It’s kind of like getting behind the ‘caution’ tape,” she concluded, pulling the threads together, tying a mental knot. “I like having access to other worlds that I wouldn’t have access to otherwise.”
Originally from Pennsylvania, Kreider moved to Astoria in 2007 by way of Seattle. She started working at the library in 2008 and has been fighting wildland fires for even longer. She remembers going off to fight her first big fire not long after she moved to the West Coast. She was 20 years old with very little sense of what she was getting herself into. She told her boyfriend at the time, “I might die.”
“He humored me I think,” Kreider said, “but I really believed I was going to be walking into some inferno.”
Later she discovered the routine, the plans that prioritize firefighter safety, all the varied and exciting modes of transportation — the helicopters and engines — the hiking for days in the woods, the camaraderie, the sometimes astonishing beauty of one of nature’s most destructive but also rejuvenating forces. Once, in a high mountain desert in Utah, she stood in the middle of nowhere and watched a fire climb up and down nearby cliffs.
“There’s just nothing like it,” she said.
When fire season ends and fall begins, the transition back into library work can be a little disorienting. The pace, the tasks — everything is different.
“But it does really feel good to work for the library,” Kreider said. She is, she says, “a true believer in libraries as places for access to information and the exchange of ideas.”
As a library assistant, much of her work is customer service in nature, but she also organizes and facilitates adult programs, including book discussions and community conversations. The interactions are often inspiring, she said.
“Even though it’s not as intoxicating as being out in the field (fighting fires), I leave with a kind of high,” she said. “I get to witness and participate in people using their minds and sharing ideas.”
For rainy day reading, Kreider recommends Philip K. Dick’s classic novel, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,” the inspiration for the movie “Blade Runner.”