A first-hand account from a Sonoma massage therapist in the Zeel network who provided massages to the firefighters battling the Northern California blazes.
I live in Sonoma, but I didn’t have to evacuate. As I remained in town, I wanted to help so badly. I signed up to volunteer in Sonoma twice, but hadn’t received a call yet, when my friend and coworker Beth posted on Facebook that she was going out to the Santa Rosa fairgrounds to volunteer – massaging the first responders stationed at base camp there. I leapt at the chance to utilize my skills to help these brave men and women, and within an hour I was on the road heading up there to assist.
When I arrived, I found the area where a couple of therapists were set up with their tables and a pop-up tent in the evacuee parking lot, right next to a few chiropractors doing the same. (They remained there the entire time we were massaging, too.) I set up my table and jumped right in, calling over any responders who walked by our little camp.
“We found that they all had the same knots in their upper and lower trapezius and rhomboid areas, as well as low back, from wearing their web gear which weighs 50-60 lbs.”
They all looked at us with curiosity, as I found out from several of them that they had never seen massages at a fire camp. Despite this, we were welcomed with enthusiasm, and soon word spread amongst the fire crews, as a line began to form for our healing services.
We were doing mostly deep tissue work, but we also had a bodyworker doing craniosacral therapy and energy work. A couple of the bodyworkers even led brief yoga/stretching exercises for the 8-12 people we had waiting in line at various times. We were so busy at times that we even had 12-13 therapists working simultaneously, mostly folks from the Zeel network.
We were there from Friday, October 13th through Friday October 20th, 8 days straight, and our hours of operation were from about 10:30-11am to as late as 11-11:30pm some nights. Many of us worked 10 hour shifts for these men and women who so sorely need body work after each of their 24-hour shifts. We found that they all had the same knots in their upper and lower trapezius and rhomboid areas, as well as low back, from wearing their “web gear” which weighs 50-60 lbs. Imagine wearing gear that heavy on your back for 24 hours straight, while hiking up steep hillsides to dig fire lines, and hauling heavy fire hoses through the brush! No wonder they all have serious knots in their muscles!
“They would say things like, ‘I feel like a new man!’ or ‘I feel amazing!’ after having work done on their sore bodies.”
The one constant among all these brave souls, aside from their knots, is that they are all so very grateful to receive the work we provided, and many of them came back after each shift for some much needed relief. Many of them saw the chiropractor, then came over to us for some soft tissue work as well. They would say things like, “I feel like a new man!” or “I feel amazing!” after having work done on their sore bodies.
Doing deep tissue massage for 10 hours/day for 8 consecutive days is definitely the hardest work I’ve ever done, but it is truly the most rewarding work as well. The gratitude that these brave men and women showed us is so heartwarming. Many of them offered to tip us, but we all refused, saying “your money is no good here” or “do you guys have a tip jar?”
I personally told many of them who offered their sincere thanks that this was the least I could do to repay them for saving my town. If it weren’t for their tireless efforts, Sonoma would have been consumed by the fires that surrounded it for a week straight. While I was massaging an Assistant Chief one day, he said, “I think you guys have started a trend. We’re going to see about making this a regular thing at fire camps from now on.” It’s so gratifying to know that we’ve made those in command aware of the need for bodywork for the firefighters, as nobody I’ve ever worked on needs it more than they do.
“This was the least I could do to repay them for saving my town.”