Four Letter Word…

It’s that (FIRE!) time of year. I was recently dispatched to the Flat Fire by Agness for a couple of weeks. Never having been in a fire camp before was an experience very new to me. One day on a high ridge road with an expansive view of the fire that was, and probably still is, burning in the fire scars of four recent fires in that area I contemplated the irony of seeing new baby Douglas fir trees sparking to life, while watching ancient and huge Douglas firs literally sparking to death…

I pondered the thought of all the critters in the path of the inferno and thought, how the hell does anything survive the maelstrom that is a wildland fire?

But the reality that struck me over the noggin’ like a cast iron frying pan was, fire must happen! It has always happened. It will continue to happen.

Fire renews as it destroys, it is just a delayed reaction I thought looking out over the mountain ranges before me.

When you consider that a fire below you burning up the 7500’ mountain on a sweltering August day will certainly kill you deader than a box of hammers, you probably would not survive one night on top of the same mountain in January without at least a small fire…

It is sad to see the immediate destruction of forest landscapes, but what formed the landscape in the first place?

Are the types of fires I see some new kind of anomaly?

Let me be clear about two things. First off, I know NOTHING about fire fighting, fire science or fire suppression. Secondly, I know even LESS about forestry management.

As I stood on top of that mountain range I wondered how many times has this area REALLY burned. I can’t help but guess that it has been burning since that ridge I was standing on was oceanfront property.

When we interject ourselves into a forest we assume a risk. We accept the risk and may or maybe not mitigate those risks by taking into consideration that four letter word.

We assume a risk when we hop in our car and hurtle ourselves down the roadway. Have you ever checked your lugnuts on all four wheels before going for a drive next to a cliff on the coast highway? Probably not a bad idea, eh?

Does your hose reach all the way around your house? Is there 20 years worth of pine needles wadded up in your gutters? Will you even have water pressure when all the power poles burn to the ground?

While assigned to structure protection in the Agness area, agencies in charge were installing 1500 gallon Insta tanks and Waterax gas-powered water pumps connected to rolls of hose ending in aimed rainbird sprinklers, something I have touted for years. It was a really slick setup that goes up fast and what the pros use to protect a structure under threat.

Short of living in a cinderblock hut on the moon we are assuming the risk of fire.

We live in an area that was formed by fire. It has burned before and it will burn again. How it burns is dependent on a variety of many different factors, when it burns will determine the outcome. Why it burns is anyone’s guess, but short of a nuclear winter, it will happen.

Stay safe, check your lugnuts, and as always,

Plant high and often…

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