TikToker shares the lonely, rugged life of a wildfire lookout
Brig Malessa takes to social media to share what it is like living and working alone, looking for wildfires
By Paloma Chavez
The Charlotte Observer
PORTLAND, Ore. — A woman’s job involves pack mules bringing her monthly groceries and going to the bathroom in an outhouse — but what exactly is a fire lookout?
Well, it’s exactly as it sounds.
Brig Malessa, who is based in Oregon and known as @Briggygee on TikTok, documents what it’s like to watch for wildfires from a 20-foot tower among all types of critters.
“I’m 53 years old, and I’m not in shape,” Malessa said in a TikTok posted in December. “I like to show people that a lot of different people can do a lot of different things.”
Her workday begins at 8 a.m. when she clocks in via radio dispatch, and she usually clocks out around 8 p.m., she said in a July 4 TikTok. She works seven days a week for three weeks before she’s required to take a day off.
“If I’m, you know, cooking dinner and I see something, obviously I’m going to call it in,” she said in the TikTok. “I am not getting paid after 8 p.m. unless lightning comes through ... because I will be monitoring that lightning.”
@briggygee I also have no Bachelors Degree nor a background in Wildland Fire. I’d love to chat more about how and where to find cool, seasonal jobs. #seasonalwork#firelookout #firetower #firewatch #audh #latediagnosedautistic #autism #over50 #offgrid ♬ original sound - 🌲Brig🌲
Malessa said in a TikTok posted on July 3 that her position in the federal government makes “about 18 bucks an hour” and that she works for about four months out of the year. In her current job tier with more overtime, she said she’d “come home with more money” than the $11,000 she got last year as a slightly lower-level employee who made $16 an hour.
In the past, Malessa was stationed at a “very remote” tower in the Rocky Mountains where every three weeks food and water was brought in on mules, a July 5 TikTok showed.
“I supplemented that water with snowmelt as long as it was available” for laundry, she said in the video. This year, Malessa’s lookout is a “drive up,” and it takes her “about two hours to drive to town one way,” so she goes into town about once a month and does larger loads of laundry then.
Malessa said she opts for wash basin sponge baths instead of the “solar showers that you hang” because they use too much water and “conserving water is really important when you’re up” there.
Malessa uses 10 gallons of water a week including her cooking, drinking, bathing and laundry.
Malessa says this summer she hasn’t posted as much as she’s been listening to her energy levels, according to a Sept. 1 TikTok.
“I’m just taking in every day and really, really enjoying it,” she said.
Malessa’s followers have shared their continuous support for her and the job she has, with one commenter saying, “(Your) life and adventures have me so locked in, I’m fascinated!!”
“Just wow,” another said.
“Your channel is truly a bright spot in my day,” one said.