Man takes shower on the road to remote firefighting camps
Posted June 17
FAIRBANKS, Alaska — Four years ago, Bert Martin didn't know anything about mobile shower trailers. That didn't stop him from buying one after he saw that Alaska wildland firefighters wanted one.
Martin, 46, is a part-time roofer and part-time mobile shower operator. When the wildland firefighting season starts, Martin leaves his roofing job and picks up one of his mobile shower trailers outside his Badger Road-area home. He spends his summers driving the trailers to remote firefighting camps. He sets up awnings next to the trailer and sits outside handing out clean towels and flip-flops to the line of firefighters who want showers.
Martin is originally from Portland, Oregon, and has worked in construction jobs most of his adult life. In 2013, Martin was working for a contractor driving a bus of wildland fighters. He went to a Division of Forestry meeting for vendors and learned that the state wanted a vendor that could provide showers at camps on remote parts of the road system. The division of forestry has a large database of businesses that rent to the state firefighting-related equipment such as bulldozers, boats and trucks.
Martin found a 25-year-old trailer in Washington state and brought it to Fairbanks. He had it rebuilt to replace the large group shower area with individual shower stalls. He replaced the linoleum himself.
Both his original trailer and a second newer one he added to the fleet this year provide a feeling of home to anywhere the truck is needed, he said.
"There's a lot of pressure, as good as in the house. And the heater is kept at a constant 110 degrees. They'll run nonstop. You never run out of hot water," he said.
As of this year, Northern Rain is one of four mobile shower providers on the Division of Forestry's database. Firefighting contracts have taken him and his original shower trailer to the Delta Junction, Manley Hot Springs and Anderson areas.
During those first few years, the business has been geared exclusively toward wildland firefighting jobs. This spring, Martin expanded by taking his truck to the Arctic Man encampment to offer $10 showers. The expense of keeping the water tank warm in snowy conditions led Martin to buy a second warmer trailer this summer. The new trailer, a 2010 JAG Mobile Solutions model, can handle the cold weather because it doesn't have external water tanks.
Martin hopes to work more events such as Arctic Man.
"I'm hoping to break into other fields. Contractors or events, fair time, rodeo — whoever will hire me, I'll go," he said.