July 23, 2009
April 7, 2009
Spring around here starts off not only the wildflower season, but another season as well; the wildfire season. This afternoon we responded to the first wildland fire of this year. We haven’t received our usual amount of spring rain and the woods are already very dry: it looks like it will be a long, long summer if we don’t get more rain!
Before the fire call came though I was able to find a few wildflowers. The Buttercups have been out for over a month and now just seem to cover the ground in places. Yellowbells have also been out for a while now and have become more numerous too. (They are a western wildflower and grow only in eleven western states.) Fritillaria pudica
Yellowbell, Goldcup, Fritillaria pudica
Another tiny western flower, the Woodland Star, began to bloom only in the past few days.
Bulbous woodland-star, lithophragma glabrum
Since I greatly prefer the wildflowers, I am hoping for a lot more rain!
January 30, 2009
Back in the middle 70’s the company for which I worked furnished me with a company car. It was one of the early Cadillac Eldorados, large, and long, and heavy, and iridescent brown with a vinyl covered top and moon roof. It also had air bags, one of the first cars in the Phoenix Arizona area that was so equipped. That was hot stuff back then and I was informed that if I were in an accident with it there would be an extensive investigation and a lot of publicity, because it would be one of the first cars so tested.
The conventional wisdom in those days, unsubstantiated by anyone who understood what automobile safety was all about, was that with those bags, you no longer needed seat belts because the bags would keep you from striking the dashboard or being thrown through the windshield and therefore you were safe. The truth of the matter was thereby greatly distorted.
Tonight I responded with our Rural Fire Department team to an accident scene where all we could do was to recover a man’s body…. 50 feet from where the remains of his truck came to rest on its side. He was a big man, we noticed, as we carried his body up the hillside to the coroner’s van. If he had used his seat belt, there was a very good chance he would have lived. He did not and he was thrown out, rolled over by his truck, and whatever hopes he might have had for a long and happy life quickly ended a hundred feet from the highway on a rocky hillside on a very dark and cold night.
You’ve all got them in your cars, folks. Take a couple of seconds every time you start up and make them go “click”!
January 4, 2009
These cold days have their own beauty: this photo was taken at 8:30 this morning with a temperature of 1°.
Two hours later when I was driving the second engine out responding to a fire alarm, it was 3° and things went down hill soon after when the first truck out was hit by a car and my response then was to an accident scene. The car driver required ambulance transport and our firefighter suffered minor injuries. A third unit found no problem at the scene of the alarm. Not exactly a good day, but it could have been worse.
October 13, 2008
Yesterday afternoon our local Rural Fire Department responded to a wildland fire. A whole bunch of fire departments just outside of L.A. responded to fires too. By dark, we had ours contained, while in southern California, homes were burning. We had a gentle breeze; they had Santa Anna winds with gusts up to 65 mph. What a difference the wind makes!
It was a great feeling last night, returning to the hall knowing that we had responded quickly, worked hard, cooperated well with other responding departments, and brought the fire under control with no loss of life or structures. There was also a feeling of gratefulness that the wind was not an issue in this case.
Until now I have not been able to take photos of a fire scene because there are so many more urgent things to do, but today when we returned to recover pieces of equipment and the situation was no longer urgent, I was able to take a few photos of the area to take home for my wife to see and to post here. (Some wives like to see where their husbands work: some really don’t!)
This fire began in a cattail swamp near the top of a small mountain a dozen miles from town. There were about a dozen homes in the immediate area. In the first photo, one home can be seen in the background, not far from the scene of the fire. I’m sure that was one anxious family!
You will have to take my word for it, the hill behind this scene was a lot steeper than the lens thinks it is!
We were able to stop the advance of the fire before it entered the forest at this spot.
The tracks of a brush truck going right through the fire to secure the far end.
One of the keys to rapid response and success in fighting wildland fires has been the invention and production of “brush trucks”. They enable departments to attack new fires very quickly and efficiently. They are very maneuverable and have lots of capabilities.
The next photos are of the one I usually have the privilege to drive. It has been in many places where trucks just aren’t supposed to go and I’m getting very fond of it! The basic truck is a reinforced 4 wheel drive 1 ton pickup (this one has the big 7.4 liter Power Stroke diesel engine).
The tall red tank with the “stack” on top is a 300 gallon water tank. To the right of it is a reel containing 150 feet of pressure hose. After the truck is brought to a stop and shifted into “park”, in about a minute this hose can be putting a solid stream of water (or foam) on a fire.
At the very rear of the truck is the key to the whole operation, a versatile pump system that can draw from the on-board water tank, a pond set up on the scene, a river or creek, or another truck with a water supply. It can supply a water source to hundreds of yards of hoses and multiple nozzles.
Once again, last night our brush trucks proved their worth… and in this case the wind was in our favor!
June 20, 2008
It began yesterday and will continue tomorrow (at least the posting part of it).
It’s time to replenish the firewood supply for winter and we’ve been working quite diligently on doing just that. Early yesterday morning I tackled the job of splitting and stacking the last of the wood my son and I have hauled down from the high country and before noon it was all split and stacked: three full cords so far; 15,000 pounds of beautiful, dry, hard lodgepole pine.
As a reward to myself for swinging a 6 pound splitting axe for three hours, I then decided a ride on the Wing would do very nicely and so headed for a spot about thirty miles away, combining the ride with taking a look for the trail head of a trail I’ve been wanting to hike. It’s a trail (USFS trail 205) which travels right through the middle of the Patrick’s Knob roadless area with the top at 5,000 feet at the high ridge of the Coeur d’Alene Mountains and the bottom along the Clark Fork River at 2,500 feet. I had hiked just a little of the top end but didn’t know exactly where it came out at the bottom, and I had planned to hike it from the top down. According to the Forest Service, the trail is three miles long.
Finding the trail head turned out to be an easy thing to do and I hiked a mile or so of the lower part of the trail and headed home a little after one. About ten miles east of the town near where I live I could see a huge column of smoke above town and I immediately headed for our Rural Fire headquarters. Turns out there were two houses burning and I then spent four hours battling those blazes. It all made for a long day!
Today I hiked the trail from the bottom to the top and back down. I knew what the change of altitude would be, but I’ll guarantee that whoever in the Forest Service decided it was a three mile long trail has never hiked it! I’ll describe it a little more next post and show a few more photos, but for now, here’s one of a pretty little wildflower I have never seen before. There are a few growing in one small area along trail 205 at an elevation of about 4,500 feet.
Tricolor Monkeyflower, mimulus tricolor