May 01, 2011

Two Crazy Days, Part 4: The Worst is Over

A telephoto shot of the Skycrane air tanker rising after sucking water from a ranch pond. These helitankers can carry more than 2,000 gallons of water at a time.
Part 1: "It's Blowing Up"

Part 2: The E-Word

Part 3: "No Structures Burned?"

Saturday, April 30, was cool and bright, with the wind shifting around to the north and east as the cold front arrived.

Two volunteers arrived at 6:30 a.m. and rolled out in the brush truck. But it would not be until until after eight o'clock that the long procession of fire apparatus came back from town and headed toward the Sand Gulch Fire itself.

Friday's blow-up had increased its size from about 20 acres to 565 acres—still fairly small compared to some, but its proximity made up for that.

The fire was less active, I could tell. At nine, needing some medicine, etc., from the house, I decided to make a quick trip back. I could get what was needed and make a quick reconnaissance in case any neighbor asked about their house.

My yellow hard hat, yellow shirt, and a friendly wave got me through the road block on the state highway. At the house, I picked up a few things ("I left my leather jacket," M. had lamented) forgot some other things, watered the seedlings in the greenhouse, filled the bird feeders, then left again.

In a parking lot by the state highway I saw all the fire engines, including ours, parked with the crews listening to somebody talk. 

A state trooper was driving slowly down the little county road. Rather "sketchy" characters whom no one seems to know sometimes show up at times like these.

With the winds easing, the aerial attack was back: a single-engine air tanker, the big helitanker, and a smaller helicopter with a bucket.

One of our crew came back at 2 p.m. and said they had spent the whole day just sitting, on standby. I was ready at that point to replace him, but someone with more seniority went instead.

Sheriff Fred Jobe announces
that evacuees can return home.
With only two of our volunteers in the field, the radio and telephone traffic dropped way off—residents were now attending the Forest Service's fire-information meetings at the old schoolhouse, held at noon and at 5 p.m.

And that turned out all right too, because I was able to strike camp and come home a little before our brush truck was released for the day—about 7 p.m.

By then, the snow was falling—thick wet flakes—and I wondered how many helitanker trips it would take to equal all the water in a spring snowstorm.

M. and I carried our motley collection of stuff back into the house, snow coating our shoulders and the dogs' fur. Quickly the low clouds settled over the burned slopes across the valley, shutting them from view, and the smell of smoke in the air was from our own chimney.

(More to come)


Midwest Chick said...

Sounds like you've had an interesting couple of days. Glad everything is okay!

Chas S. Clifton said...

Thanks. We are celebrating being home by starting spring cleaning early, even though it's snowing!

Shen-Tat HeruSet said...

Blessed be!