July 04, 2011

A Smokin' Hot Wedding Anniversary

Sunday was our wedding anniversary, and we planned a small celebration—a hike in the Wet Mountains followed by pizza.  (Hike photos to follow.)

On the way into Silver Cliff for the pizza, a sheriff's SUV, running hot, passed us going the other way. "Car or motorcycle wreck down the canyon," we think.

Then another sheriff's car goes by, lights flashing. No big deal. As we parked at the pizza place, a Forest Service pickup marked "Fire" heads east too, lights flashing. Did the wreck start a fire? But when someone wrecks on the national forest, the FS usually checks just to be sure—I know this from experience.

We order and are having drinks when two wildfire crew vans and a brush truck, all from Utah, go past. "OK," we said, "Those guys must have been on the Duckett Fire, and now they demobilizing."

(Those are the same vehicles we would soon find parked in our tiny meadow.)

Then we start home, in the same direction as all the emergency traffic. The sky is full of broken clouds. Is that smoke? No, it's a cloud. . . .a few miles on . . . "It's smoke." "Maybe it's south of us  . . . "

Of course it is not south of us. My mind goes into a tunnel, not thinking, just driving (floating down that "river in Egypt").

A water drop this morning--photo from my porch.
There is a roadblock at the first turnoff. I flash my county firefighter ID, say I live up that way, while M. is shouting across the seat, "Our dogs are there!" Same thing again at the next turnoff, where the San Juan Hotshots are resting by the road, faces black like old-time chimney sweeps'.

Home. Into my wildland fire clothes, then packing a few things—I try a couple of radio frequencies until I get one of our guys. "We're just parked up here on the saddle on stand-by," he says.

I ask him to radio me if the fire comes where he is, because I don't always trust the sheriff's Reverse 911 system—it has missed us before.

Again I hook up the camping trailer, load Fisher's kennel crate, my computer, etc.

M. goes to check the neighbor and hears how the rich doctor with the nearby hobby ranch had staggered to her door, head bleeding, saying only "Plane down. One dead." Her home health-care aide had driven him to a hospital.

We had seen the bright yellow biplane overhead that morning and thought nothing of it. Apparently the crash started the fire.

Another of my department calls me on the radio—he has the water tended parked where our property meets the national forest, so I walk up there and help with refilling the brush truck as needed—its crew now involved with stopping the fire where it has spread along the Forest Service road.  Mainly we hang out, swap stories, listen for updates.

And we watch the air show. Three tankers are in the crowded airspace: a small, single-engine model; a C-130, and an old P-2 Neptune (I think), plus heavy helicopters and spotter planes. At one point it appears the C-130 pilot aborts a slurry drop to miss hitting a helicopter, but we cannot hear them talking, so we do not really know.
At dusk, the engines are coming out.
At dusk the wildland fire engines start coming out, but the hand crews' chainsaws are still screaming up on the ridge. The fire has run to the crest and started burning bigger trees that had survived 2005's Mason Gulch Fire. Soon after, I walk home.

Like a good blogger, I open a beer and start downloading my photos. M. comes and puts her hand on my shoulder. ""Dear," she says,  "you really don't have to plan anything so exciting next year."


Midwest Chick said...

I hope that everything is okay and they get the fire stopped!

I guess at some point though, all you can do is pop open a cold one and wait.

Waiting for the update though....

Tovar@AMindfulCarnivore said...

Happy Anniversary! Wishing you a cool, damp one.

Anonymous said...

Belated Happy Anniversary! Glad to hear that you are all safe! Geeze, what an adventure.

We were at Battlemoor II and didn't hear of it until we got home.