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Glory

Self-satisfaction can take different forms. Looking at an air tanker pilot's work from a technical standpoint, they've helped to execute a well-choreographed aerial dance routine. 

By following their incident commander's instructions to the letter, they've flown through poor-visibility conditions, carefully watched for and avoided other planes and helicopters, and dropped their load of water on the fire with superhuman precision. They'd probably pat themselves on the back if they could, but the tanker's cockpit is pretty tight.

 
And forget about the amazing seven-acre barbeque that was just prevented. (Source)

Perhaps you'd like some warm fuzzies along with your technical "atta-boys" or "atta-girls." In that case, think about the homes these pilots help to save, perhaps owned by people who couldn't afford to rebuild their houses or replace their possessions. Think about the small town on the verge of being wiped out when the aerial and ground teams beat the fire back behind the fire line. Think about the farmer's livestock that survived because their team and the ground crew kept the fire away from the barn.

Although pilots certainly aren't guaranteed those successful outcomes, they help to compensate for the firefighting efforts that didn't turn out so well.

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