A chance to study huge wildfires was one of the reasons Olivia Cappetta headed west this spring.
A native of Sete, France, which lies on the Mediterranean coast near Montpellier and Marseille, Cappetta arrived in Bayfield on April 10 for a 10-week internship with the Upper Pine River Fire Protection District.
She helped conduct a district wildfire assessment, worked on a wildland fire crew, and was trained in using chainsaws, a tool she says her French co-workers don't use while working at wildfires.
Another big difference between U.S. and French medical services is that local crews can administer IVs to patients, something she said would never happen in France. But there, a doctor and a nurse are driven to medical calls, then escort patients to the hospital.
She also got to practice in the burn tower at the Los Pinos Fire Protection District near Ignacio.
Despite the differences, Cappetta said there are more similarities between the two systems. .
They both have crews that respond to emergency medical calls, structure fires, wildfires - albeit smaller than our wildfires, and carcrashes.
Because of the rocky coastline where she lives, there also are crews that specialize in rope techniques and scuba diving. Sete has 40,000 residents, and firefighters are called to more incidents with homeless people, including streetfights. The crews and stations also are far larger than Station 5 in Forest Lakes, where she spent most of her time.
Cappetta is a volunteer for the fire department in Sete, but graduates in a few weeks with a two-year degree from the University of Bordeaux. She wants to receive her four-year degree, and perhaps a master's. Then she wants to work for a fire department, possibly in the U.S.
During her free time, she has kayaked the Animas River, gone to Navajo Reservoir, and on Monday, she summited her first Fourteener, Mt. Sneffels.
"It was no easy," she said in her accented but fluent English. "But it was awesome. I'm really proud of that."
The next day, the fit 21-year-old admitted she was a little sore.
"This was the best experience of my life," she said of her time in Bayfield. She leaves Saturday, but wants to come back and visit in the winter so she can ski or snowboard.
"We want to keep her!" said Lisa Eckert, the district's administrator.
Upper Pine Chief Bruce Evans seconded that. She is the 10th intern he's worked with from the university, "and she's been an extremely motivated student," he said. "She's just gung ho to involved with run calls." She's joined in on all but a handful of calls the district has made in the past few weeks.