Thursday, June 26, 2008

Where There's Smoke

My thanks to everyone who has continued visiting this blog, commenting on the scheduled posts. And my thanks as well for the concern for my mother and her home. I've just returned from her house over on the edge of the Navarro Fire, and can report that I am much relieved to have seen the situation for myself. I had prepared for a moonscape, but while much changed, the trees still define the landscape. Much of the understory is burned out beneath them, but that will return eventually. The grass and understory burn was intentionally set on Saturday, to serve as part of a containment line for our edge of the Navarro Fire, which at last report was 3000 acres big. This means we fared much better than the wildfire area without the preburn, just beyond our land, which was far more thoroughly damaged.

I spotted just one serious flare-up on our edge. With fantastic luck, the staging area for the firefight on the west end of the thing is on our property, so I could report the problem without using a telephone. I'm here to tell you, when these guys go to work, it's fast and earnest! Rick Hautala, an employee of one of the nearby timberland owners, was just unloading his ATV as I approached, and I asked him to check the plume I was concerned about. He zipped over, then roared back to the staging field, radioed that the fire had jumped the line, and a 'dozer was required. It seemed alomst immediate that the sound of a tractor-bulldozer came speeding out of the forest. I watched as Rick raced the bulldozer down the road and attacked the fire! His first response with that machine was amazing, smothering the flames with rapidly pushed soil, taking down small timber, and clearing the way for the arriving crew from Marin County with their pump truck and hose and axes! And the Marin guys did their work just as expertly, dousing the flames with the hose, chopping away at the hot ground spots, diligently "mopping up" for hours afterward to secure the line once again. This was all within a couple of hundred yards of my mother's house.

After they had been working there for a while, I walked back to the Marin County crew, and caught the attention of one of the three or four men. What a privilege it was to be able to look one of them in the eye, and thank him, even as he straightened from axing hot embers on the ground! I tried to express the generations of memory on the land he was saving - even as it was anonymous to him - and he filled in the word for me. It was "personal", this help he provided to us. I could thank him from my heart, and I could also thank the quick thinking and action of Rick Hautala.

There are so many I could not personally thank, but I hope they know how much the gratitude and admiration is felt. The gracious men I spoke to would habitually refer to some other crew or individual who deserved more thanks than themselves. Of particular note are the front-line crews from the Department of Corrections (prisoners) work camps, such as Parlin Fork, Chamberlin Creek, and Ft. Jones. They were the ones with the hoes and adzes, chopping a fire break around my mother's house. They are the ones out on the direct fire lines, clearing away fuel from the hungry flames. Hauled by securely enclosed trucks, they were transported from one hot spot or fire line establishment to the next. The few times I actually could see them, they were grabbing what moments of sleep they could catch, on the ground, closely watched beside their trucks.

My mother had voluntarily evacuated to a friend's house over beside the ocean for the last five days. I received a graciously generous discount to stay at the Little River Inn, beside the smokeless ocean each night. When I left earlier today, I felt reasonably secure of my mother being safely back in her home. The main action of the Navarro Fire has moved many miles southeast now, but we must be vigilant. I'll be going back over there in a couple of days to see how it goes. I have tons of pictures that I still haven't processed for posting. When I do, I'll link from here to some of them on my Overflow blog.

Thank you again for all the good thoughts out there. It's going to be okay. The photo essay is here on my Overflow blog.

The official Mendocino County current wildfires information page is linked here.


Janet Kincaid said...

Wow, Elaine! Great write up and excellent photos to go with the narrative. I'm glad to hear your mother is safe. You be safe, too! And here's hoping for some moisture your way. (I'm amazed by all the fire activity in California this early. It's not even September yet...)

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks for the update. I'm glad to know you and your mother are safe. Your description brought a tear to my eye. Okay, that's cliche, but really, it was my left eye!

Dina said...

Me too. Both eyes.