Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Smoky Afternoon

 I was enjoying a little quiet time in the afternoon when the pager went off announcing a fire just a few miles away. I'm part of the Volunteer Fire Department, so after scurrying a bit to find my Nomex pants, fire boots, and fire pack, I made it to the station and jumped on the second truck to head up the hill. We could see the smoke in the distance, so it was easy to see where we needed to go.

 The fire was caused by a lightning strike (several people saw the exact one), and burning in sagebrush-scrub.

 We went to work on one side of the fire, trying to cool off the flames and keep the fire relatively small.

 Wind was not our friend, as it kept shifting. Soon we saw that we needed to move to another part of the fire.

 As the wind pushed the fire a new direction, it had more fuel to consume, and the flames shot up. We kept hoping that the extra engines on the way would get there soon, as it was more than our two engines and water tender could handle.

 The conditions got pretty smoky in places. A little of that smoke is good, but a lot is not so much fun.

 Law enforcement had the road blocked off, which made it much easier to work. Above, the first BLM engine and our water tender are checking in.

 We really like this old truck, but it has a bad habit of dying in inconvenient spots. We had to work a little to keep the fire from burning up the truck.

 We wanted to keep the fire from crossing the road, and we were successful in that, although the fire kept spreading on the south side of the road.

 The south side of the fire, which was the quietest when we got there, jumped to life and showed a big flame front that wasn't so easy to get to.

 I had to leave after a couple hours and go get the kids. This is what the smoke looked like from down in the valley.

 After some much needed snacks and ibuprofen, we went back up to the fire to see how my husband was doing. We saw that plenty of help had arrived, including two helicopters equipped with buckets. They had no problem getting to the back side off the fire.

 The kids had fun checking things out from the back of the van.

 More water drops.

 It is fascinating watching a helicopter at work.

 Meanwhile, the kids were busy making a meteor crater.

 Then they decided they were digging for gold. It kept them very happy.

 The Volunteer Fire Department tender was kept busy refilling the fire trucks. I had to go to a talk that evening, so we left my husband with the tender. He was supposed to watch the kids while I worked, but he couldn't get away. He finally left quite a bit after dark, and said that there were still some engines out there. Every time the wind shifted (which was often), more embers would burn and they had more smokes to put out.

We're crossing our fingers that too much cheatgrass doesn't grow on this site, but based on the elevation, it's pretty likely that cheatgrass will soon dominate. That's one of the toughest things about fires in sagebrush--at one time they were really beneficial, but now cheatgrass makes a spot even more prone to fire. The fire size was estimated at about 50 acres.

If you'd like to keep up-to-date with our fire department, you can like us on Facebook.


trav4adventures said...

There were several lightning-caused fires near Palm Springs the last couple of days...one up in Joshua Tree national park and another one out by Windy Point (Interstate 10 and Highway 111). Then, driving up Highway 395, near Red Mountain, we could SMELL smoke. Turns out, there's a fire up in Kern County. Several fire trucks were at our hotel and the firefighters left at 6 am the next morning. We also saw several bulldozers coming down from the eastern Sierra to help with the fire. I salute you people who fight fires!

John Mosley said...

Good work!

Serious question. What eats cheatgrass? I'm a fan of biological control when it's wisely used. Is it possible?

The Incredible Woody said...

Great job! A huge thank you to all the firefighters!

Desert Survivor said...

There's about a three-week window when cheatgrass is palatable to livestock and wildlife. After that it dries out and becomes inedible, and thus a fire hazard.

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