The Pecking Order

One would think that with an intelligent thinking creature that the pecking order shouldn’t or wouldn’t exist. That it’s fiction to think that it does exist, and that this intelligent being should be above all such nonsense. After all, when one looks at the animal and bird world, position within the hierarchy, is determined by the “pecking order”. With the rise of intelligence, and with one aware of what can happen if all is reduced to this method of determining one’s place in the world, then the results of the “pecking order” could bring forth the destruction or extinction of mankind.

I first thought about this when I was watching a program that was talking about a possible discovery that countered the existing theories by the leaders in that field. Whether the counter was correct or incorrect is  unimportant, as much as the denial from the leaders in this field, and the following censure, with lies being put forth to completely shut this one person out, and to prevent his continued research and possibly the of proving his theories. The pecking order, showing that if you go against we, the leaders, we, even if in the end, you are shown to be correct in your theories, will make  sure that we still are the ones who are in control, and our theories will be the only ones that stand. If one looks at the history of science, this has been prevalent. But is this the only place we see this happening – academia and science? I wish it were so, but then this program was followed by a comment my wife made about something that had caught her attention at work. Again, this just added the fuel to that raging fire as to what had been revealed. If one stands back and really looks at all aspects of our lives, it becomes pretty apparent that something that shouldn’t exist is quite prevalent throughout this world. From the lowliest to the mighty, the pecking order exists. From individuals, all the way up to societies, governments, nations, and groups of nations as they come together to bring another in line, it is there if one just looks. (It would be easy to take this last sentence out of context and make it appear that I’m pointing towards a socialist agenda, and if that is what you see, then please understand that this is the furthest thing from either this post or me personally.)

Back to that comment, she stated that the new people who had joined the team were receiving hell from many of the established workers, making these new additions live in an environment of a living hell – why? This just did not make sense to me since they were desperate for the additional help. Yet, these few, needed to put the new arrivals in their place and keep them there – again the pecking order revealing itself. So as one begins to observe the world around them, this phenomena begins to show everywhere. No matter where one is, rank and file at work, supervising, going to school, whether it is elementary, middle school, high school, or college, and it’s especially strong in college where schooling is optional, (The professors weld their power and their position to push their own agendas. And if any attempt to counter their views with facts they are given a failing grade. Don’t believe it? Try and counter many of the professors and see where it gets you.) you’ll find it existing. Most of the time it isn’t even very subtle, and once one is aware, then it is easily observed.

Now that this has been revealed, and I’m sure that I’m not the only one who sees this, is there anything we can really do to change it? I really wish I had an answer to this very valid question, but I don’t. What it does reveal is that we haven’t risen that far above the natural world, the beginnings from where we originally came. Even though we want to say that we are better than what is observed in the natural world, it, time after time, is revealed that we really are only a step away, and what we have created, the towns, cities, the advances in science, and such, really only hide the truth. And that truth is that we truly are no more than those primates, no more than the birds where the term “pecking order” originated, no more than the animals living in the wild, and we cannot claim to be above them, when it is observed that we are doing the very same thing as they.

On a different subject: The previous 2 posts “Fire on the Mountain, parts 1 and 2”, are based on an actual wildfire, and eyewitness accounts. The book, “Time of Isolation” is now available for the kindle. Here is the link:


Fire on the Mountain – Part 2

“Again, not sure, but I do have a feeling that this one will not miss us as the others have in the past. I sure wish I knew more, but the scanner is quiet, and the radio and TV are worthless.”

“Very true,” she said, “all they keep covering are some of the rich bedroom communities. It’s like we don’t exist at all.”

“Stupid isn’t it. Anyway, I’ll head back up. All we can do is what we are doing right now. Probably will see you sometime later.” With that he headed back up the hill to their house and continued to watch and worry. All that could be seen by any of them was the smoke, and it was dark, black, angry and rising rapidly. Changing colors from white to black as it continued to boil into the sky. Again because of where they were the base of this smoke could not be watched and from that make intelligent assessments or decisions as to what they should do.

He remembered that he needed to call his boss at home, since it was obvious to him, that there would be no way he would be at work on Monday. Plus he needed to contact his replacement to let her know that she probably would be working the office for at least a few days, how long . . . he really had no idea. Turning to Allie he then said, “I think we need to both call our respective supervisors and let them know what we are facing here, and let them know that we probably will not be in tomorrow at all. Have you heard from our daughter yet?”

“That’s a good idea. I’ll go ahead and call Sue and let her know our situation, and no, not a word. Frankly I’m worried, but there is nothing either you or I can do. We don’t even know where they went when they left last night.”

“Yeah, once again without any facts or anything that will help we are completely blind here, and that is a real problem. You know I think we had better load up our cars with something. And yes I know, if it misses us then we will have to put it back. But what if it doesn’t? Then we would be kicking ourselves for not doing it. I think I’m going to head up on the road where it is higher and see if I can see anything. Keep the handi-talkie on and I’ll let you know what I see. Keep your ear to the scanner as maybe something that will help might finally come over it, and once you have loaded what you feel we have room for, then send the boys down to help mom, as you know, she’s alone with dad.”

Nervously Allie looking around replied, “Okay, but what is your plan? You’re the one with the experience here, and I for one, am quite nervous about this whole thing.”

“Yeah, I know. So am I, as I have nothing to go on other than the smoke. I’m hoping that we can stay here and protect the houses. But much depends on what the fire does once it gets here. And until it does, I truthfully will have no idea. If it approaches us like a normal . . . even a Santa Ana pushed fire then we should have a chance of keeping it away from the houses. I think that it will be approaching us from the west. And if it is doing that it will be burning into the wind making the fire fight for every inch and slowing it down – add to it that it must burn downhill to reach us, which again should slow it down, giving us better chances for protecting things. Later, I’m going to call a meeting and kind of go over everything with everyone. But in the end, it may turn out that we have no choice and have to run. Once I finish my call to my boss then I will go out and see what I can see. I just hope I can see something that will help us.”

He started walking around trying to find a strong signal for the cell phone so he could make the call to his boss. The signal strength here was so variable that from one moment to the next it would drift enough to drop the signal. It was something he never understood as their location was completely open from the south to the northwest. Nothing at all blocking any approaching signal, but it was always weak. Finally finding a point where it appeared that it would be strong enough to make a call he called his boss and informed him of the situation. The boss asked to be kept informed of what was happening. He then called his replacement and alerted her that she would have the office for a while, again how long he didn’t know.

Once the calls were complete, he waved at Allie, and began to drive out with his car to see what he could see. He stopped briefly at his parent’s house to see how things were going and to again let her know that once they were finished up there that his boys would be down here to help her with anything she needed help with. And also that the plan was to try to protect, if the fire did get here. Then with the binoculars and handi-talkie he drove further in on the dirt road to both put him higher than where they were located and a little closer to the approaching fire.

Further in on this road were five other families and their homes. He wanted to head past two of those homes and get closer to one of the other owners, as from there he could look partially down into the canyon to the west where he figured the fire would approach. As he drove in that direction he ran into one of the families. Stopping briefly, he exchanged greetings, and found that they were at loss as to what to do. He understood this, since this was to be their first such fire, and if you hadn’t lived with them you just wouldn’t know. He gave them whatever suggestions he could and then moved further in saying, as he left that if the fire was coming he would warn them to give them time to get out.

From where he parked he could look down on the family property and could see people moving around. Unfortunately he had a better view of the property than the canyon where he suspected the fire would come out of, if it did. There was a single hill to the northwest that sat by itself and the smoke was boiling hot, black, and heavy off the west side. The rest of the smoke appeared to be further to the west. It was just hard to say what was going to happen. Calling back to Allie on the handi-talkie he said, “This really doesn’t look good, but so far there is nothing on our side. I’m going to come back briefly so that we can load my car up, grab something to eat, and then return here. If I see it come out of the canyon it will be from this location that I can see it. Plus, according to how it comes out, it will let me know what we are facing – see you shortly.”

He punished the car heading back, but it was becoming more and more obvious to him that they were not going to get missed. There was no definite proof yet, but enough evidence to conclude that sometime that day they would be trying to protect what they owned. When he entered the property he stopped at each house and passed on what he saw before heading up to his home, and got out and explained to the boys that it wasn’t looking very good. And still the winds continued to blow strongly out of the east. The smoke told him that it was still a very hot and rapid spreading fire. And the shock was, it appeared to be burning into the wind like it was being pushed by the wind. It should not be that way but it seemed that this fire was ignoring such things – leaving him to conclude that most likely this fire was fuel and topography driven, and that scared him.

He called a brief meeting with the 3 families and explained where they should meet, and that according to what the fire was doing, when it came in, would then determine what they could do if anything. “Okay, shortly I’ll be returning up to where I was so that I can monitor the fire. I will continue to keep in contact, but understand this, if it does come up this side, that once I call it in, then we probably will only have 30 minutes or less before it will be on us. I sure do hope we can protect our homes. By the way, has anyone seen any fire trucks or equipment anywhere?”

No one had and that was another worrisome thing. Why, with 13 homes back in the area, was there no one around? He thought that if they had one truck that they could easily defend the homes, but with just their hoses and gravity fed water system it would be so much more difficult. He knew most of the people who lived back on the mountain and most would try to save what they had. But where was the protection they paid for? It was strangely absent. While he knew that with the size of this fire that the firefighters would be thinly spread, there should be at least someone coming around to inform them of what was happening. Possibly either the Forest Service, or maybe the Sheriff’s Department, or even the Highway Patrol. But to have no one, made him feel much too isolated. All the phone lines were tied up or down, and the cell phones was now overwhelmed and useless – leaving him frustrated, and a little fearful. What was going on anyway?

It was entering early afternoon and it was time to head back up and see what was happening. So he got back into his car and drove back out to the overlook where he had monitored the fire earlier that day. Much seemed the same, even though, a couple of hours had passed since he was last here. Yet studying the smoke he could see a heavy black and gray column that now appeared to be much closer. He suspected that the fire had finally crossed the canyon and was on their side. Studying the terrain in front of him he determined a couple of scenarios. One of the two would have a better outcome for them.

These scenarios were based on his experience. He felt that by looking at the terrain that according to where the fire came out the canyon would be either good or bad for them. So he waited and monitored and talked with the neighbors as they passed him. From the neighbors further in, none had actually seen any flames as of yet, but had come to the same conclusion he had – it would only be a matter of time before the fire would be upon them, and where was the fire department? He almost wished that the fire would get here, and immediately felt guilty by such feelings. But he knew the reason why. Once it showed itself, then finally, there would be something concrete instead of this unknown.

He continued to watch the one smoke column and he knew that as the fire neared the top of the canyon and revealed itself that it would first show in the smoke. Since the heat from the fire affected the smoke it would start moving much faster, and of course the further from the heat source the slower the smoke would rise. He continued to watch and could see that it was starting to pick up rapidly, and now he knew for sure it was about to crest on their side of the canyon. Almost holding his breath he watched, never taking his eyes off that smoke. Then the fire crested the top of the canyon and was now on top and heading east towards their homes. And in the scenarios he had created in his mind, this point and direction was the worst. Slumping his shoulders he knew they were in serious trouble, but still hoped that they could protect the small ranch.

He stayed a few more moments just to confirm what his eyes had shown him, then called back to the ranch warning them that it was on the way and be prepared. As he drove back he saw one of the new neighbors sitting in their truck watching. He stopped and warned them it was here and it was time to either protect or evacuate, there would no other choices available. He got back to the ranch and all of them prepared as best they could to defend. Above them, on another piece of property, sat a 2-story home on a 20-acre parcel. He could see the family moving around the house. They were well cleared also. But again this fire just seemed unusual. 30 years earlier a fire had burned through this county and at the time was the biggest in not only this county’s history, but in the recorded state history. Yet, this one seemed to be burning faster, hotter, and probably in the end would be even larger than that previous fire.

Once again he went over what everyone was supposed to do, and then with one final meeting at the safety area, all went to their individual homes to do what they could. Now all they had to do was wait, hope, and pray that they would be spared. They didn’t have long to wait as the first signs of the approaching fire showed itself. Then a wall of flame of unbelievable height showed, as it started running downhill. The flames were twice the height of that 2-story home! He would have sworn that this fire was moving with the wind and running uphill, instead of against the wind and downhill – it was unbelievable. The flames were that hot, and intense. Looking at the inadequate equipment they had to defend their homes, he knew right then and there, they had no chance, and it was a lost cause. If the fire could be that intense against the wind and running downhill there was little they could do to defend their homes. Oh to have a fire truck right now, but they did not, so could not do anything but leave, to abandon all they had, and hope that what had been done earlier would be enough. But in his heart he knew that if no one was here to put out the small fires that would start, there truly no chance of anything remaining after they were able to return.

Going back to the safety and meeting area he let all know that there would be no chance to protect anything, and they would have to leave. Not only had he seen the front approaching from the northwest, but saw a second front approaching  directly from the west. One front would have been hard, but two impossible. Again, admitting defeat, which was difficult, he told all, that there was nothing they could do other than leave. So from being on the defense to leaving, all grabbed what they could and began the sad drive out of the property. It was now around 3 in the afternoon. So approximately 12 hours after receiving the call from their daughter about the fire being at her door, it was now at theirs, and the results would probably be the same.

Their youngest son, who was 15 at the time, had never really driven anything, but now had no choice. They only had one automatic and he was given this one to drive, a small pickup with a camper shell on its bed. None of the other 3 cars were large, so overall, even with the pickup, not much could be taken. Before leaving he took one more walk through their home, wondering if this would be the last time he would ever do this. He closed doors and checked windows to try to make it as fire safe as possible and then finally left, closing the front door, heading over to his car, then took one final look around, and began the drive out. He stopped briefly at his mother’s house and told her that there was nothing they could do and she, with dad, would have to evacuate. He waited until she got dad into their truck and started their drive out. He noticed, to his surprise, that she had very little in the back of her truck.

What had happened? He had sent the boys down to help her put some stuff away just in case they had to leave, but he could see that very little had actually been accomplished. When the boys had returned from their assistance of their grandmother they had mentioned nothing, so all he could assume, was everything that needed to be done had been. But now, it was quite obvious, that nothing had. He thought that maybe if he got out that he could save something for them but immediately realized that there would be no time. All that time was now gone and it was either leave now, or face the chance of not getting out at all.  Shaking his head, the only thought he had at the moment was, once again with no information being passed on, it left him ending with the wrong conclusion. And now, all that his parents had collected for their entire lives, would be gone and there would be nothing he could do to change that outcome.

He remembered the end tables that his dad had brought back from Japan, when he was there, during the Korean conflict, and the beautiful dragon dishes, and so many other irreplaceable things that made their house and lives their own. Now taking a last look he got back into his car and reluctantly drove out of the yard, knowing in his heart that this would be the last time he would see any of their houses like this. They had been here for 47 years, and now had to abandon it all. Where was the protection they had paid for? Why hadn’t there been anyone at all to come out and inform them of what was coming? Just nothing, nothing at all . . .

Eventually he caught up with the other vehicles, and they stopped briefly at a point that overlooked the property. From here, they could see the fire raging and starting to cross the west field with a vengeance as the 2 fronts converged. They had barely beaten this combined front out. Now another factor had entered in, showing him that had they stayed, they really would have been in serious trouble. Instead of just 2 fronts where the fire was approaching there actually were 3. Unknown to them, while they were still there, a third front was approaching from the canyon and would have trapped them between the visible fronts coming from the west, and northwest, and this one that would have come in from the southeast. Defeated, all that they had tried to do had failed, along with their dashed hopes of saving the homes. They continued the drive out of the dirt road and entered the town that their address was attached to, and immediately ran into a gridlocked road, as everyone in the area was attempting to evacuate. The roads had never been built to handle such traffic, and now it was just a large parking lot.

Now there was a new danger. With so much traffic, and so little movement, if the fire came through this area, there would be much injury and death. No one would be able to outrun this fire on foot, and it was obvious, at this moment, that no one would be able to drive out. A second problem then developed as they became separated. Fortunately, with the handi-talkies, they stayed in communication and at the bottom of the hill was a small parking lot where they got back together. Now, it was only his immediate family, as his brother, with his family, and his parents, were nowhere to be found. Once back on the road, they were directed to an evacuation center, which was a parking lot of a small shopping center to the east of the fire. They remained here until around 2 A.M., when another evacuation order was given as the same fire was about to threaten the shopping center.

Information was sparse, and they were sent west, to go either to a high school or a stadium. In the process of making this trek, once again they became separated due to poor directions of the ones in charge. Again, thanks to the handi-talkies, they were able to keep in contact, and decided to go to the high school, where they would meet up again. On the trip down to the high school, they passed many areas that was fully engulfed in flames. They saw a number of houses fully involved and it seemed, once again, that the whole area as far as they could see was somehow burning. Eventually reaching the high school, they spent the rest of Sunday night, and Monday there, not getting much sleep at all. In fact by the time they left on Tuesday, they had just about four hours sleep since Saturday night.

Then on that Tuesday they returned, and found all was gone. They heard the story of what had happened with the rest of the family, and how they had been back on the property late Sunday night after the fire had come through and destroyed everything. Even still, there had been some small miracles, as there had been birds in pens there, and they had survived, while everything around them was nothing but devastation. The other miracle was, that no one in the family had been hurt or killed, while others had perished in the fire. . .

. . .When it was all over, this fire had burned faster, hotter, and had covered more acreage than the last largest fire in this county’s history, becoming almost twice the size of the other. Many questions were raised afterwards, as there seemed to have been some major inconsistencies and incompetence in the handling of the fire. Forecasts had shown that the winds would be arriving and if any wildfire did start, suppression would have to be immediate, before the Santa Ana winds had an opportunity to spread the fire. Such a fire did start, and the ones in charge, refused to allow any to suppress the fire. The result from this inaction, was unleashing of the largest fire, not only is this county’s history, but once again in this state.

The e-book “Time of Isolation”, was released to the retailers on June 15, 2011, and should be available soon. This is book 1 of the survival series, and the genre is science fiction.

Fire on the Mountain – Part 1

The devastation was complete. Not a building or home was left standing. As he stood there with his wife and children all he could do was shake his head. There had been more than adequate clearing around the buildings to keep them from burning. But here was the proof that what they had tried to accomplish wasn’t enough. “Total loss,” he said to no one in particular -not that it wasn’t obvious. “Maybe we can find something that survived . . . but looking, I think that the heat from this fire probably gives us little hope of finding anything at all.”

Not sure as to what to do, he signaled them to just spread out and check everything. Years of work and effort gone in a few minutes as if it never had been. While the house wasn’t anything special, in fact, it was too small for their family, it still had been home. They were not rich people, if the truth were told, they barely made lower middle class. They were living on family property in the country and there had been three homes here, and all three were gone. Of course they were not the only ones. All the homes on the mountain had been destroyed.

It was now Tuesday, and even though the fire had passed through this area on Sunday the skies were still filled with smoke and ash. They had a cargo container they used for storage and at this time, whatever was inside was burning. With no way to put out the fire all they could do was watch helplessly as the flames consumed what little they had left. The fire had destroyed the water storage tank and many of the feed lines, so there was no water available to fight the fire . . . and no electricity.

Coming back that morning, as they traveled the dirt road home, they saw the mountain bare of  greenery with only black and gray ash, and the skeletons of the chamise, scrub oak, and manzanita standing and pointing to the sky. The power poles were all down, with many lying in the road, all showing heavy fire damage. The lines themselves were everywhere and in many places they had to detour around them. As even at this moment, while it appeared that there was no way for power to be in them, they could not be sure. With no tension on the lines, they lay on the ground, black against the lighter soils, appearing to more like snakes than something that just a short time ago allowed them to have electricity.

As they had driven in that Tuesday, it had appeared that they had entered a war zone. One of the first things they noticed, as they had stopped and stood outside of their car, was the quiet. The only thing heard was the wind. From this vantage point they could see much of the surrounding countryside and nowhere could they find a place where the fire hadn’t been. The smells in the air were very strong of burned chaparral and wood. The world they were seeing was foreign to them. Without the vegetation to cover the mountain it was now a stranger. Everything was laid bare. Never had they seen so many rocks and boulders. Everywhere they looked they could see small dust devils forming, running a short distance, disappearing, and then new ones picking up the dance. After a brief time, they continued on into where their home had been, along with two other homes belonging to other family members.

What did one do after something like this happens? They, like many in the backcountry, had no insurance. With the locations being so remote, there were few companies that would insure, and if they would, the costs would be so high that it easily could be more expensive than a regular monthly mortgage payment. Few could afford such a thing. So one took their chances, and this time those chances had gone against them. Looking across to the other two destroyed homes, they could see that the other family members were doing much the same thing as they were, looking at the destruction and trying to find something that may have survived. He could see that they were in just about the same shape from their body language that even from a distance was so easy to read. Again, where were all of them going to go from here?

None of them had ever been in this situation. They had become refugees in their own land, with no place to stay, no food, and no water. The only advantage was the country where it had happened. Had it been a third world country then there would be no immediate help, but here at least there would be, and close to immediate. Still, they planned on staying here, but needed to at least come up with some type of shelter, and get a generator, so that with some repairs, they could get water flowing again. “Standing around isn’t getting any of this done. Allie, I’m going over and talk with the other family members. You can either join me or stay here with the boys and see what you can find.”

“I think I’ll stay for now. Let me know what you find out and what you all decide, okay?”

“Of course, just have the boys take a bunch of pictures. We may need them later, and I guess just be careful. I should be back shortly, since I just want to see how the rest want to deal with this.”

As he left he turned around and looked back at his wife, who in an unguarded moment, had let down. He could see from the slump of her shoulders that she felt completely defeated, at loss as to what to do, and where to go. She had turned in that moment and saw him looking back at her. She responded with a smile . . . a sad smile, but at least he could tell she was trying. His heart went out to her and he knew that he must continue to be strong for all of them. As it would be so easy to become negative and allow this to completely take over their lives . . .

. . . It was Saturday late in October, and so far the rains hadn’t come. Fourth year of drought, and all the surrounding chaparral was dormant, and extremely dry. If a fire started then the chamise would act like flash fuels – with the oils in the chamise and the low humidities it would burn hot and fast. The chaparral around their area hadn’t burned in over 50 years, and as such, was prime burning material. In some areas it stood over 12 feet high and was so thick one could not crawl through it let alone walk. In almost every area there was much that was dead, leaving the whole area a tinderbox just waiting for the right moment.

That right moment began that Saturday afternoon, when off to the north he saw the beginnings of a convection column of smoke. He immediately went back inside and turned on their scanner to monitor the fire situation. Unfortunately, very little was received, as most of the fire traffic was hitting a different repeater, and it wasn’t one they could get, because of the mountains between themselves and the repeater. Commercial radio and TV were worthless, as they covered some of the large bedroom communities and ignored the backcountry. The only confirmation they had was the building smoke column, and it was building rapidly. All he could hope was that it would stay north of them and not be a threat.

Now, with the threat of Santa Ana winds coming in, it looked like a disaster waiting to happen. They needed to get that fire out, and out now. Once the winds hit, it would be over, and there would be an extremely large wildland fire out of control and very dangerous, with no chance of it stopping until the strong winds quit. Those winds were hot dry winds out of the east, northeast, and southeast. Speeds could be up to 100 miles per hour, and humidities could drop into the single digits, creating explosive situations, and many times, firestorms. He had seen whole canyons go up at once, scary, but beautiful all at the same time. It had been said that in the heavy areas of this chaparral that if one acre all burned at once that the energy created from that one acre would be equal the energy released by the bomb dropped on Hiroshima or Nagasaki at the end of WWII.

Back when he had been a wildland firefighter, he had been in one blowup situation, and it had been pushed by these winds. With other fire trucks they were making a stand along one of the many dirt roads through the forest. If they could hold it here at this point then they probably could keep it out of some of the more populated areas that this one seemed to be heading towards. They had anchored themselves to a burned area caused by a spot fire earlier that day that they had extinguished. Off to the west of them were a ranger station and the alternate direction if they had to escape. The truck was faced towards the closest blacktop road, while a few miles away was initially out of the danger zone, and the primary escape route.

All through that afternoon and into early evening they awaited the main fire. Then, when it arrived, it did so, with a vengeance.  As earlier in the day the fire ignited numerous spot fires across that dirt road and their line, but this time they were having difficulty in extinguishing the shear number of small fires that were igniting. Then, the main fire ran down the hill, pushed by those winds and reached them, suddenly there was just too much fire for them to handle. The spot fires began to combine and became a second front. Now stuck between the main fire, and the spot fire created second front, they knew they had to abandon their defensive position. Word had reached them that the fire had jumped the road in the direction of their planned escape and now that direction was no longer a safe option.

At this point no artificial light was needed, as the whole area around them was fully engulfed in flame. Yet, they had to turn the fire truck around, a real difficulty on this one-lane dirt road, and then get out of there. He was sent out to help direct the driver on a safe backing and jockeying of the fire truck so that they would be able to go back towards the ranger station. While out there doing that job he noticed that everything that could burn was burning, so with care and speed they successfully got the truck turned around. Then the driver had everyone climb into the cab and he drove rapidly out of the area. As he did, they had fire lapping over the truck. Had any of them remained outside, in the crew area, most likely, they would have been burned.

Now here on this Saturday, these many years later, he could see that there was a great possibility that they would be facing the same situation again. Because of the years of living here, and his experience, he felt that they had adequate clearance around everything. To the west and northwest they were clear to bare earth at about 150 yards. The remaining directions of the compass it was no less than 150 feet. The other homes on the property were similarly protected. With the tank full at 2200 gallons of water, and hand tools for fire fighting he felt their chances of surviving a fire was very good. So, for the rest of Saturday, they watched nervously as the smoke column continued to build. Then as night approached the predicted Santa Ana winds arrived. But with darkness they were no longer able to see the smoke column, and because of the mountains between them could not see the glow from the actual fire.

Again, they continued trying to get as much information as possible. Every once in a while something would come over the scanner talking about moving equipment up, and then they would switch to the other repeater and nothing else would be heard. There was nothing helpful from the commercial side, as again they ignored the backcountry, as if it didn’t exist. He was without vital information and hadn’t received enough even to know what the situation was, other than the winds having picked up, and the fire and was being pushed towards the coast. So they remained up that night until midnight when one of their sons came home from work. They asked him if he had anything new to add, and he actually knew less than they did. So exhausted from the day, they went to bed.

Two hours later the phone rang. The son picked up and then knocked on the bedroom door saying that it was Heather. Groggy, Allie picked up the phone, listened and then turned to him and said, “Heather says they are leaving, the fire is at their door right now!”

“That can’t be, as it was still a long ways away from them, when we went to bed,” he responded. Turning around and looking at the clock he continued, “Oh my, that was only two hours ago! Hold on, I’ll go outside and look, I can at least check, and see.” He got out of bed, put his clothes on and said to himself quietly, “Guess not much sleep tonight.” Then headed outside and quickly stopped and was shocked by what he saw. He immediately turned back and let everyone know that as far as he could see all he could see was fire. The front was miles long, stretching from the north at the furthest point he could see, all the way to the west, down into Lakestown, where the daughter lived. How was that possible? Never in his life had he seen a fire move this fast. There would be no sleep for any of them this night. Now for sure it would have to be monitored. If the wind direction changed, it could be a real threat to them.

After that one phone call from Heather, there was no further contact, and so they had no idea what had happened from that point on. Were they able to get out safely, and if so, where were they? Much later they learned that she and her boyfriend barely got out with the clothes on their backs, before the fire was upon them. Shortly after they had left, the raging fire consumed the house they were living in.  It was days before that contact would be made, from that initial phone call, and they would know that she was safe.

Standing outside in the night air with the winds at his back, he watched as the fire made runs up the mountain to the west of them. It did appear that the whole world was on fire. The only thought at this time came unbidden. The winds were at his back, giving them a good chance of, maybe, being missed. But in his mind, he had a real doubt. If the fire had moved that fast, and was consuming everything in sight, what was to prevent it from coming their way? At about this time, Allie came out and handed him a cup of coffee. She nervously watched the fire and said, “What’s your feeling on this? I’ve never seen anything like this, and really don’t want to see anything like this again, to be truthful.”

Putting his arm around her waist he replied, “If, from my experience, I based this on the fire behavior with these winds involved, I would suspect that we would be out of danger. But I have a gut feeling that this time it will reach us.”

She shuddered a little, while looking at the running fire and asked, “Are you sure? This scares me. Again I have never seen so much fire in my life.”

“No . . . no I’m not sure, but there is something about this one that is telling me that we will be facing it soon enough. I just hope that we can protect the houses. I know that we have many advantages set up here. The fire has to run downhill to get to us in any direction but to the southeast, and most of the area is somewhat flat – plus you add in all the clearing that has been done . . . well, if it is a normal fire or even a normal Santa Ana pushed fire we’d have a chance . . .” Then trailing off he said, “. . . a small one but, a chance.”

She stayed out with him for a few more minutes saying nothing, then turned around and went back inside. He could understand her feelings and fears. Heck he had them too, and he was an experienced wildland fire fighter. He took a flashlight and walked around their home to confirm everything that could be done had been. He then looked over at the other two houses on the property, seeing their porch lights on looking quite alone in the darkness . . . two isolated ships in a sea of blackness. He then noticed someone approaching him from his brother’s home. In a short time he saw that it was his brother. “What do you think?” Mike asked, as he came into hearing range.

“It’s a worrisome thing . . . a very worrisome thing. I’ve never seen anything move this fast, period.”

“Do you think we are in trouble?”

Shaking his head he said, “Yeah, very big trouble. I would have thought the work we all have done around here would have been enough. Now, with this thing, I’m not sure at all. All we can hope for is that I’m wrong and it will either miss us or what we’ve done is enough. I think if it does come, we will try and make a stand, but, at the same time, I think we need to be prepared to leave. As you well know, there is only one way in and one way out. So if that is blocked by the fire we could really be in for some very serious trouble.”

“Okay, I’ll head back and let the family know. Have you gone down and spoken to mom yet?”

“No, not yet – figured I would do that in the morning. She has her hands full with dad’s condition and needs all the sleep she can get. I think we have at least that much time, and there isn’t much she could do anyway.”

Laughing a nervous laugh, Mike said, “Its morning now. I think somewhere around 3:30 or 4:00 A.M. But I know what you mean, daylight. Okay, I’ll see you again after daylight, and we can, as a family, plan our strategies.”

With the rising of the sun and no one in their household getting any more than 2 hours sleep, he headed back out to observe. As it had been all of Saturday, it continued with little hard information. Other than what they could see visually, there was nothing presented that was useful to them. It was frustrating to not have any vital information. It made it impossible to plan, or to know what really was happening. So he waited until he saw movement down at his parent’s house before leaving to go visit and find out how they were handling it all.  Looking at the area where the fire was burning, all he could see was smoke. With the light of day the all too visible smoke column had replaced the glow of the fire. It was huge, period. It ran from the southwest to the north where there was a strong break between the dark black-gray smoke, and the clear blue sky. It was as if someone had drawn a dividing line, telling the smoke that it could not cross here. Looking at that smoke he could see that it was boiling hot and heavy rising quickly to the heavens. This was a hot fire.

He eventually reached the house and found his mother standing there on the porch watching the same thing he had been, as he approached the house. Shaking his head he asked, “Spectacular isn’t it? How are you holding up here? I know with dad in the shape he’s in that you have this all to do on your own. If you need any assistance please let us know, and I’ll send the boys down to help. Oh later, not that you cannot see it here, come up to us, as we’re on a little higher ground and you can, at least, see further to the west.”

“So far everything’s fine . . . and spectacular doesn’t adequately describe it at all. This one’s a monster. I think from what I can remember that this is even worse than the one that came through to the south of us about 30 years ago. Yes I know, you weren’t here for that one. You were in the army at the time.” She paused a moment and shrugged her shoulders,  “So far dad’s not a problem, but I’ll take you up on having your boys down here to help if that’s okay.”

“Yup, that’s okay. I think, a little later, I’m going to take the road further in, and see if I can spot what this thing is going to do. I’ll take a handi-talkie with me so that I can keep everyone informed. I think initially, we will try and protect the homes here. But, I think that we will have to be prepared to leave, just in case we cannot do that. Won’t know what we will be able to do or not until the fire actually approaches, if it does.”

“You think it will?”

Published in: on June 16, 2012 at 9:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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Fire Season

Any place that one lives, there is some type of natural disaster that they can face. In the west it is earthquakes and fires, and with the northwest you can add volcanoes, the central part of our country it is tornadoes, flooding and blizzards, and the east coast hurricanes and with the northeast there is the chance of blizzards also . Where I lived most of my life, and the ones who’ve read my short bio also know, that wildfires and earthquakes, plus the fact that I also fought wildfires for a number of years, are the natural disasters I faced. I do have a few pictures that I’ve taken over that time, and the many memories that these pictures bring back to me, and I will, from time to time, tap into these memories for use in my fictional worlds. The next 2 weeks I’ll be posting a short story in 2 parts, that deals with this subject of wildfire, and the unsatisfactory outcome that many face.

In the area where I grew up, fire season ran from April, and ended in December, with some of the worst fires happening in late September or October. For many who live in areas with lots of rain, they would consider the area where I lived as desert. But it truly is not so, since I’ve visited and enjoyed the desert, and there is no comparison between the two regions. Where I presently live, we have at least 9 months of winter, and many times more, and barely any other season. This is quite different from most of my life, where it was completely reversed. Rainfall was measured on the coast, and an average year was around 9 to 10″. Winter ran for around 3 months and even through that time, there would be weeks of sunny beautiful days. In the mountains the area rainfall could average into the 30’s, and there could actually be snow at the highest elevations. But the snow never remained very long – a couple of weekends to a month, and it was usually gone.

So with such a low amount of rain the vegetation has adapted and much of it goes dormant once past the wet season. Then, as summer advances, and temperatures rise, sometimes reaching the 100’s that could run for a couple of weeks, this would lead to the vegetation drying out even further. In the area where I presently am, if there is no rain for a week, they are in a drought. And if temps rise and stay a couple of days in the high 90’s then they are having a heat wave. Of course we who are from a drier climate, laugh at this. Again the area I grew up in has been running an 11 year drought – creating a tinderbox, just waiting for something to light it off. Then, as summer winds down, and fall arrives, most of the time with little or no rain, a weather condition usually developes with  high pressure over the four corners region and  low pressure off the coast – santa ana winds. These winds can reach hurricane force, and generally blow out of the 3 directions of the east, changing as the high and low shift locations. Temperatures rise, and humidities drop, sometimes into the single digit range. This sets the stage for conflagrations.

I’ve heard people, who really know nothing about these fires say, “I don’t worry about them. I’m sure that if I saw one I could outrun it and be safe.” All I can do is shake my head because of their ignorance. Let’s look, for a moment, at a fire that was pushed by these winds back in the 70’s on the west coast, and until the 2000’s was the largest fire in California’s history. It burned 186,000 acres. Here’s some averages for you. This fire did this damage in 5 days, and that averages out to 25.83 acres a minute. That’s an average, so when it first started it would be burning less than this, and at its full intensity more. I know of no one who runs that fast. In the wildlands, fire spreads exponentially. And here is what this means: If, in the first 5 minutes a fire burns 1 acre, then in the next 5 minutes it will burn 2, and then 4, and then eight, especially when pushed by santa ana winds. Another example of this was back in 1975. A fire was reported by the lookout, and the first engine on the scene arrived only 5 minutes after the initial report, and it was already at least 2 acres in size and running. We were dispatched and was somewhere between 30 to 45 minutes away, yet, by the time we arrived on scene, it was probably at least 500 acres in size, and flat running over anything in its way. in the 2 days that it burned, it consumed over 7,000 acres before suppression efforts stopped its advance.

On that same fire there was a small rural community directly in its path, and it did burn through it. There was a few structures lost, but not from lack of trying to protect them. The intensity of the fire, plus the thickness of the smoke hindered efforts. At one home we were protecting we put 2 lines of water into the fire to knock it down, and it did nothing. The fire was so intense, that initially the water was evaporating before reaching the fire. Eventually as it consumed the fuels it had to burn, it lost its intensity, and we were able to save the house – you always wish that you could save them all, but it is something that is quite impossible.

So, once again, this year the southwest received less than average amounts of rainfall. And, as already being demonstrated, this fire season will be another tough and severe one – with comments from people who do not live in these areas, saying that “They would never live where natural disasters could affect them”, forgetting, that no matter where you live you can face nature’s fury.

So, in the next 2 weeks I’ll be posting a short fictional story, parts 1 and 2, that deals with the other side of this. Not from a suppression point of view, but of ones trying to save their home, unsuccessfully, from one of these santa ana pushed fires. While fictional, it is very close to the reality that many in the backcountry face or have faced in the past. And one further note, “Time of Isolation“, has an official release date as an e-book, of June 20, 2012, and will be available in all e-book formats. The genre is Science Fiction and is the first in the Survival series.

Science Fiction

Since I read a lot of science fiction, and of course write in that genre also, I began to think about the genre overall. While in many ways the stories presented can be from very dark, to a glowing brightness, there’s one theme that covers all of them. And while this theme is obvious, at the same time it isn’t. Of course scientific fiction deals with alternate futures of mankind. And I guess the key word here is, “future”. To be classic sci-fi, it deals with future events. There’s a number out there now that deal with alternate pasts which leads to an alternate present day, which become alternate futures, but the true science fiction deals exclusively with the future.

All stories deal with conflict in one form or another, and all have great stories, puzzles that needs to be solved, issues that the protagonist must overcome, and great environments for all of this to take place. But sci-fi adds just one more element to the mix, and that is this: We’ve actually made it to a future time. Our species has survived its own attempts at self-destruction, and we now, as in many stories, inhabit the stars, or something closer to home, we’ve survived an apocalypse. No matter what the mix is, we have survived. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, or the ego of our species that has the belief that the future is there just waiting for us to grab and run with it. Then in some ways it could be viewed as an escape. Allowing us to escape the shape and condition that our world is in and enjoy, even for a short time, the unlimited possibilities that these future worlds present to us.

Many can dismiss this genre as fluff, and is of no consequence, and definitely not serious literature, but because of the dreamers and writers of science fiction in the past, many of the devices, systems, and advances that we take for granted are a direct result of those dreamers and the stories they crafted. Science fiction takes that “what if”, and pushes it far into the future. It takes trends that are seen in today’s world and projects them to the many possible outcomes and directions that these trends could take. It imagines what other life could be like, and knows that we are far from the most advanced species that exists. And it’s honest enough to deal with all aspects of the human condition, and weaknesses that we have. To show us that some things never change, since they have existed in the past, exist today, and there’s no reason to not expect them to exist in our future. Another of the many things about the genre is that we can see multiple views of what our future could be. Sometimes presented on the grand scale, and other times through an individual or small group.

But no matter how you look at it, the subject matter that is being covered, or whether we are looking at a very dark future or a very bright one, there is one continuing theme through all of it, and that is this: We made it. We actually made it to the future and are still around. And no matter what the story, there cannot be anything more positive than that.

And as one further note that I have to offer: On approximately June 20, 2012, I will be tentatively releasing an e-book in the science fiction genre titled, Time of Isolation – book one in the Survival series. I will update the actual release date at a later time, and it will be available in all e-book formats.

Published in: on June 2, 2012 at 7:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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