Tuesday, July 4, 2017

fire drill

on sunday, july 2nd, at around 1:30 in the afternoon, a fire, which has been dubbed spring fire, started on the south side of hwy 49 about 4 miles (as the crow flies) from our house.  the fire jumped to the north side of the hwy and had a period of rapid expansion as it continued to burn to the northeast.  roads were closed and a mandatory evacuation order was implemented for residents considered to be in the fire's most likely path.  the evacuation zone was expanded a couple times and got to within about a 2 miles from our place.  

mandatory evacuation zone shown in yellow.  our house is on triangle rd (northeast of the northern edge of the evacuation zone) halfway between silva rd and darrah rd.

the fire burned to 225 acres before its forward progress was stopped and some minimal containment was achieved which was about 10% at the time and is now reported as 50% contained.  most of the evacuation orders have been lifted and some roads reopened.  hwy 49 is now open to controlled 1-way traffic during most hours of the day but was closed overnight last night.

map of the spring fire burn zone which is currently estimated at 225 acres

although the fire never became a physical threat to us there was the possibility that it would expand far enough toward us that we would have been included in the evacuation zone.  given the huge load of dry vegetation, which includes acres and acres of drought/beetle killed pines and cedars, there was also the possibility that the fire could have grown more rapidly than could have been managed by fire crews (they did a great job).  wind can be a big factor in how far and fast a fire will spread.  not only will it fuel existing flames but it can carry burning embers to nearby areas.  fortunately the winds have been pretty calm.

the wind carried a burnt leaf from the spring fire to our place

smelling smoke/seeing plumes of smoke in this area is always a bit nerve wracking this time of year.  when i first smell it or see it there is always a brief period of discomfort until i can find information on what is happening.  once i find out where it is and how it's progressing i can settle myself into doing whatever needs to be done which is often nothing.  this time around i was able to find a couple of good sources of real time information on twitter.  given the fire's projected pathway and the encroaching evacuation zone i decided to get prepared to leave if for no other reason than it being a good opportunity to run a fire drill.  the first thing i did (after making sure i was wearing shoes and putting my wallet in my pocket) was pen the ducks and get the cats into their run so i'd know where everyone was.  zane is never more than 50ft away and 95% of the time he is literally underfoot but i did put a leash in my pocket.   next i gathered food and dishes for zane and the cats (there is always a travel crate ready for the cats in their room) and got duck feed and a bale of straw loaded into my truck which i then parked near the duck shed.  i've started working on converting an old camping trailer into a duck transporter but until it's ready if we need to get the ducks out of here it will mean putting them in the back of my truck.  getting them into and out of the truck would require a little work but the bed has a cover on it so they would be safely enclosed during travel.  once i had everything sorted for all the critters i packed a change of clothes, tooth brush, some vitamins, cell phone and gathered together a few seeds i've saved from the gardens. i was prepared to grab some important documents and my laptop if we had to leave.  
staal got the generator ready in case we lost power (the fire did cause a major outage but we were not in the affected area) and a year or two ago he set up some sprinklers on the garage and the mill office roofs which would give us some protection from blown in embers (the house has a metal roof and isn't likely to burn readily).  a while back he also set up our rainwater storage tanks and the storage tank that supplies well-water to the house with hook-ups that a fire crew could pressurize and use to hose a fire here.
we did what we could.  i felt okay with it all---with the possibility which always exists in living in this area that we may lose our house and all of our material possessions to a fire.   while i was preparing for the possibility of evacuation i explored the sense of calm okayness that i was feeling and i realized that even though i've put a lot of time and effort into building and planting in the gardens and for the ducks what is of most importance is not the result of the work but the growth and enjoyment found in the process of the doing and living of it all and that isn't something that a fire or anything else can ever take away.  as long as staal and the critters are safe nothing else really matters.  
it was a good fire drill.  

 *** very grateful to all the men and women who put themselves at risk for the safety of others ***