A Slice of Life, Part 3

Again, if you had followed the links in the previous post it talks about indices which are predictive tools for a fire’s potential. It is based on taking the weather from certain stations on a ranger district. You have a minimum – maximum temperature, dry bulb – wet bulb measurements, which determines relative humidity, wind speed and direction, and fuel stick weight. With the provided conversion charts, you report this to the dispatcher. Today this is done automatically, in my day it was a manual operation. Probably most of these operations would be familiar to most out there except the fuel stick. The purpose of the fuel stick is to determine moisture content in the dead fuels. It has a certain weight when perfectly dry for which the scale is adjusted to a zero point. Then as it absorbs moisture the weight changes which converts into fuel moisture content. At that time and presently all these figures give you the 3 indices that predict a wildfire’s possible rate of spread, intensity, and its potential.

We headed east of the station before turning north on Hwy 79 that would take us close to the fire origin. Suddenly the engine pulled over before we reached a point where doing this maneuver would be impossible for many miles. For the brief time that we were stopped I asked what was going on. I was informed that there had been a report of another fire and we were being turned around to attack the new fire. This one was on our district. Part of the problem we now faced was that two-lane blacktop road that had been closed because of the winds. This meant that we had to travel this dangerous section of road. Fortunately we were the only ones on it. I say fortunately because the winds were so strong that the engineer or driver could not keep that heavy engine in his lane as we responded. We were continually pushed deep into the eastbound lane as we headed west.

Eventually we passed through the most dangerous section of the road dropping down in altitude rounding a curve where the mountain that the road had been built blocked our views to the north. Once the mountain fell away we saw what had been reported, and I have to admit that in all the years that I fought wildfires, this was the only time I witnessed this phenomena. On major wildfires there is what is called a defined convection column that rises high into the atmosphere. If one was to look at these columns of smoke they would appear to weather radar as a thunderhead or a developing thunderstorm. In fact it is not uncommon for thunderheads to develop on top of these columns of smoke. So the expectation was to see just that. But this was not what we witnessed. The smoke column wasn’t rising into the sky as normal but being funneled down the canyon, the winds were so strong that the smoke couldn’t climb into the sky, and like a chimney was being drawn westerly through that major canyon complex. To the ones who lived in the area where this phenomena was taking place it gave the appearance of another fire.

It was reported to the dispatcher that fortunately we did not have a new fire. We were then turned around and headed for the original fire. Again we faced those wicked winds as we wound our way back up the mountainside along that section of closed roads still having difficulty staying on the road, let along in our own lane. Eventually we left that road and retraced our route that we had begun before being turned around. Again this wasn’t an easy drive since this was a winding twisting road leading one deep into the national forest. Again the winds affected the engine and the driver had difficulty keeping it on the roadway. Eventually we turned off of this main road through the forest onto a side road and began our drive towards the actual fire location. The road was only blacktop for a short distance and then became the standard backcountry, forest dirt road that only one vehicle could drive at a time. If one met another then a pullout would have to be located so that one could safely pass another.

As we had climbed in altitude the winds had become stronger, and were roaring with an intensity drowning out any other sounds that may have existed. Because we were now on dirt we had to slow considerably, not that these engines were fast by any means. Still once one started down one of these dirt roads speed was the last thing one could obtain if one wanted to reach their destination safely. At this point we were on the south side of the mountain with the fire on the north side of the same range. Because of our proximity to the mountain nothing of the fire or its potential was visible to us. Eventually we turned to the north side and was struck by a stronger wind that had been partially blocked from us by the ridge. We now sat above looking down into the general area of the fire and could see the smoke boiling. Here the captain or station foreman had the engine stop to get an overview of what was happening. For me I was looking forward to the fight that would be ahead of us shortly.

After looking it over the captain reported to the dispatcher what he was seeing and we then proceeded on down the road to the Pine Hills Ranger Station (the engine from this station was the first to be dispatched and the station was vacant), which was surrounded by an overgrazed meadow, showing tuffs of wild grass with much separation between the dead plants, grazed down to the point of any barely remaining above the ground. The weather station located here had been blown over by the winds and destroyed – so strong were the gusts. We only stopped briefly here. We continued on down the dirt road towards the origin of the fire, and somewhere along this direction of travel the captain realized that we would be in the direct path of the advancing fire. So once again we stopped. At this point one could hear the roar of the fire in the distance. It was louder than the winds which were deafening in itself. One could hear pines exploding from being superheated. We were dealing with a perfect fire ladder with fire in the ground vegetation, mid-growth and crowns of the trees. In other words, everything that could burn was burning intensely.

To explain a fire ladder is this. If we start out at the ground where the annual wild grasses have cured we have the flash fuels. Above this is mixed vegetation of chamise, scrub oak, shumac, manzanita, and others such plants that are usually dormant and have low fuel moistures. These can, and do grow high enough to be in the lower branches of the trees. With this combination we have a perfect ladder for the fire to transfer from the grasses, to the brush, to the trees, and on this and other fires is exactly what the fire accomplished.

We retreated back to that meadow outside of the Pine Hills station and watched from there. The winds at this point were so strong that if you opened the door to the engine the wind would whip it out of your hand, and anything loose in the cab would be blown away before anyone could react to prevent it from happening. We could see the smoke funneling down the canyon just to the north of us and shortly a spot fire began to burn, possibly at the head of that same canyon where it rose up to meet the meadow where we were. It was then I experienced something again that was unexpected – that fire began to burn across that overgrazed meadow. With the distance between the tuffs of grass I swore that it was impossible but again I was proved to be wrong.

On major fires or in conditions similar to this, spot fires are a common occurrence. Simply stated, a spot fire is another fire starting usually ahead of the main fire and this fire is caused by the main fire. With the heat generated the fire lifts hot ashes and coals into the atmosphere which eventually drops back down and can start new fires. On this particular fire it produced a spot fire approximately 5 miles ahead of its location. It is one of the factors that makes it so difficult to control these fires. And usually when they reach this size then you generally go from the offense to the defense trying to save whatever you can. When the fire begins to spot, then it will be nature that will allow control, not man and his machines.

For us it was becoming a desperate situation. As we continue this story, next time I’ll talk about one of those major spot fires that we fought the rest of that day to prevent it from crossing that dirt road that we had driven, to reach the station and this wildfire.

If you are just reading this for the first time, here are the links to parts 1 and 2. https://windmillsmetaphor4writing.wordpress.com/2013/08/03/a-slice-of-life-part-1/

https://windmillsmetaphor4writing.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/a-slice-of-life-part-2-2/

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Published in: on August 31, 2013 at 8:07 am  Comments (1)  
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Blog Extra – We the People – Are No More

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Opinion. Time is running out rapidly if “We the People” want to keep our liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, or watch as they all disappear. We must act now, following the guidelines laid out by the Constitution, or become just another 3rd world country. We do not have years, but only months before the illegal law Obamacare becomes effective, destroying your right to choose. It is designed to force you to take what the government is offering and to take all of the other choices off the table, to destroy the family, and the ability of the bread-winner to protect his or her own. Now even companies are not allowed or cannot afford to offer family healthcare options or solutions but only individual plans, or face the wrath of the government for breaking their very illegal law.

The 3 branches of our government were created in such a way so that there would be checks and balances to prevent what is now happening. Now all 3 branches – executive, legislative, judicial, are working together to undermine this legal document, the Constitution, that is the law of this land. They are openly ignoring the very laws of this country and doing as they please. Congress had no legal right to pass this law, the president, who now bypasses Congress, writing his own laws and signing them into law, which is illegal as it gets, had no legal basis to make it law, and the Supreme Court definitely ignored the Constitution when it declared the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) legal and within the bounds of the Constitution. And, as usual, you must take any title of a law from this government with a large (very large, maybe the size of a salt lick) grain of salt. One thing is quite obvious is this is not affordable at all.

It seems that whatever this president wants, or demands, or threatens, or if no other way works, he creates it himself, he gets, and the media is just along for the ride. This whole mess with our government, the media, which seems to have become the 4th branch of the government, sounding more like Pravda than a free press, all of them – the legislative, judicial, and media seem to be dancing to the tune of whatever the executive branch demands. And so this song is appropriate. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpQWbvYbeZE

It was recently stated from one in the know, that there is not enough money in this world to pay off the debt that this government has incurred, and from predictions they will continue to spend until the predicted debt will reach 21 trillion. This is unacceptable and they have destroyed the future of most of our generations that will be saddled with this debt well into our future – if indeed there is one. Soon there will be mid-term elections and we need to quit sending the ones back that are a part of this problem. With a government out of control, and we are the ones that keep these “elite” in power, so in the end, we can only blame ourselves, it’s rein it in or lose everything. And if we allow this to continue, where will it end? The simple unacceptable answer – Anarchy.

Radio Host Mark Levin, in his most recent book “The Liberty Amendments” gives us a possible way out of the dilemma, which is a legal route for all of us to take, to get our country back to where our forefathers envisioned it. We are at a very dangerous crossroads: Either we take our country back, back to its roots and the Constitution, or we lose it and become as this poster above announces. Do we become as the title of this post states, after all it is truly up to us.

Words Are All I Have

Such an inexact way of passing on the stories, the ideas, the way one sees the world. Words, small and large, unknown and known, that we must use to communicate between one another, to hope that what we are trying to say is understood. With no way to truly know, no way to understand, no way to see it from the other side. Yet, all are based on these simple words. More often than not, it is only these that one can pass on, speaking or writing what they need to say, or have to say. Most likely none of us will ever meet, to see the body language that reflects much of each of us, to help us understand through the tone of one’s voice, through the inflection and power placed on certain words to make another see exactly what is meant.

Here it is only black letters on a white surface forming thoughts and ideas that are static and mean nothing within themselves. It is only when viewed together and in the whole that it begins to make sense, or at least one can hope. After all we are all unique, all different, all seeing the world and all that is in this world through our own eyes, through our personal experiences – always different from any other, always to be unique. Even if an event happens to many of us, our perspective will be different, and thusly ours alone. Yet we use those lowly words to try to relate what those experiences are.

We, as writers, try, many times poorly, to transport others to the worlds that we create, to places never seen. Taking the reader to new heights and lows. Yet even here it is the experiences of the reader that breathes life into those words, not the writer. After all it becomes the reader’s story, a story seen through the reader’s eyes. It becomes something different every time someone new enjoys the story, and as such, it will never be the story that the writer saw in his or her own mind. Words, those many words on the paper, on the page, are the skeletons for which the reader hangs the flesh of life upon, making the characters real, making the world that they live real. Until your work is chosen by a reader it is no more than a coffin for which the dead are placed, until someone breathes life into it by choosing to read those words. It is through their eyes that the world becomes alive and vibrant, real, and full. After all, what you write is only a guide, a direction, a pointer, which we use to allow the imaginations of the reader to soar.

It is with these inexact words that we reach out to each other, to touch one deeply, to bring laughter, or tears. It has been stated that a book is a cheap vacation, and when you think about it, in a way, that’s very true. You have adventures, see places, have experiences that you could never have or afford, or to be able to go or do personally.  These humble words can lead to deep devotion as some deep truth is revealed, or can be light and airy buoying one and bringing tears of laughter. They can bring your past alive as you find something from your past written in words of that time that takes you back to the very moment in time when you or another family member or friend first wrote those words never knowing that in the future such would be read or remembered.

It is through words that we begin to see another’s personality. They can reveal a person’s passion, and the direction that they will go in life. Yet in the end, it is us who interpret those humble words making them our own, stealing them from the ones who stated or wrote them. Because until we do this, those words do no exist, do not have meaning, have no power. It is only after we’ve made them part of us that they can influence, can change our way of thinking, make us ponder or view a situation or circumstance differently. Until those words become our own they remain within those dusty tombs to remain unseen, unused, with no life. It is we who ultimately give them life, give them meaning, and only then can they exert the vast influences or potentials that awaits, hidden, patient. Because when one really thinks about it time means nothing. We may pass on, but those written words remain through the corridors of time waiting to influence another generation, making them almost immortal.

Yet, like us, languages die, words die, as do nations and cultures. Even here lost and alone, buried deep in time, unknown and undiscovered, they can influence once again. When discoveries are made, when dead civilizations are discovered, and such as the Rosetta Stone are translated that once again that past, that culture, that civilization becomes alive once again. And because of those words we are able to glimpse ever so slightly, in the shadows, in the dust, to taste ever so slightly their world and their time.

And from me to you it is just that. For words are all I have to give, and I guess I must accept that this is the way it is, and always shall be.

Published in: on August 24, 2013 at 7:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Slice of Life, Part 2

If one had followed the link back to the Loop Fire disaster, one of the terms that they used was “cold trailing”. They stated, which is absolutely true, that this is one of the safest operations that one works on a fire line. Basically this operation is to tie in open fireline where the fire has already passed and there is no active fire, very few of, what is referred to as smokes, and with most the open area cold. The nature of fire is such that it can find ways to get past open line, even in such areas as described here, and start burning actively once again. So line construction, plus working a certain number of feet within the burn is performed to both tie in the open lines, and ensure that nothing can blow beyond the newly constructed line. It also discussed the 10 firefighting orders and there are a second set that is called “Situations that Shout Watch Out.”  http://www.fs.fed.us/fire/safety/10_18/10_18.html

In part 1 I stated that in those first 3 years of living in the country we were almost burned out. In a way it is interesting to realize that the first fire we faced, the Inaja Fire of 1956, and the first major fire I would face, the Pine Hills fire of 1967, would burn in close proximity to each other albeit 11 years apart. The former, like the Loop fire of 1966 caught a hotshot honor camp crew with line bosses, leading to 11 members, in the area of the flashover or blowup, perishing. Again, below is a link that compares the 2 fires. Understand this, any who are unfamiliar with these wildfires have an mistaken belief that one can outrun such fires if they are caught, are in for a shock. Let’s use some simple math to dispel such thoughts. Basically if we look at the latter fire we find that it burned 7000 acres (rounded to make this easier) in 2 days, or 48 hours. So let’s take and divide the acreage by 48 and see how many acres it burned per hour. This comes out to an average of 145.3 acres an hour. Yes when it first started it burned slower, and there was a time where it consumed much more than this figure. We will now divide this by 60 to get the average acres per minute. This average is 2.43 acres per minute. I’m sorry but personally I’m just not that fast of a runner. (Comparing of the 2 fires – link.)  http://www.fs.fed.us/psw/publications/documents/psw_rn183/psw_rn183.pdf  And here is the link to the Inaja fire tragedy.  http://www.coloradofirecamp.com/cedar_fire/inaja_fire_introduction.htm

Now on to the continuation of what transpired (Again it is important that the terms be understood, otherwise this information could  leave one scratching their head). We remained glued to the radio, so to speak, during our standby hours, and slowly the radio chatter died as the equipment went beyond the repeaters that allowed us to hear. We retired to the barracks, something common during that time, and something that doesn’t generally exist for the stations with engines in the present time. Again our day back then was 15 hours. 8 hours regular schedule, and 7 hours of standby for which we received 25% of our base pay. During that time when one responded to a fire and was active on that fire you also received a 10% hazard duty pay. This was based on what you were earning at the time. So if you responded and attacked a fire, for the time you were on that fire up to the time of control, you would receive that bonus. Although, your pay would remain in standby mode if a fire began during that time, and that 10% would be based on your standby pay. Again at this time there was no overtime, so one ever earned a lot even with a running fire. As an example, I earned less than $2 an hour.

With the dawn we were alerted by the 3 beeps that meant a dispatch was eminent. The alert immediately pulled us out of our sleep and all of us waited to see which units would be dispatched and where the fire was. Again much has changed since that time. With the advances in communications equipment, only the stations that need to respond are alerted instead of a general forest wide alert. I was a crewman and as such was required to ride on the back of the class 1 engine. Again at this time the engines were either class 1 or class 2 with the prevention units classified as class 3. Simply stated the class I engines used a power takeoff unit to drive the pump, A single stage centrifugal pump, while allowing better pumping qualities it meant that once the pump was engaged that your engine became stationary. Again with time this has changed and now these same engines can do both, operate the pump and if necessary do a running attack.

Time to understand what this means: Running attack. In the city, most of the time such is unnecessary, since fire departments within a city normally deal with structures, so being able to move while fighting a fire isn’t necessary(Although in the present many cities have rigs that will be able to perform a running attack). In wildfires, many times, you need the ability to have the engine move with you so that you can attack the moving fire with you advancing with it, using your hard line or lines, simply the hard rubber hose on rollers, to attack the flanks of the fire. The canvas looking hose is known as CJRL meaning Cotton Jacket Rubber Lined, with 2 sizes being standard within wildland firefighting – inch and inch and one-half. City departments generally use a two and one-half inch hose or larger.

Class II units were flatbed trucks with a slide-on unit that had an independent pump and 4 cycle motor that drove the pump, making them ideal for running attacks. Of course the air cooled motor wasn’t as strong pushing the single stage centrifugal pump as the class ones, so the heavier pumping jobs were always left to the class I units. In the district that I worked we had 6 units, 3 class I, and 3 class II, with the class II’s being placed in the more remote areas, leaving the class I’s located either in or close to rural communities. For many, the USFS, and their volunteer departments were their only fire protection. Of course the Forest Service was famous for saving the foundations, which was always an inside joke, although it did carry a kernel of truth to the statement. After all, the distances to many of the residences were too great to be able to arrive in a timely manner, to save the structure.

The unit that I was assigned was in the middle of a rural community, and the reason that it was one of the class I units. Again because we were also the district office we had a mother or nurse tanker, simply a unit whose only purpose was to provide water to the engines and not be directly involved in fighting the fire, although it could if necessary. All the engines during that time carried 300 gallons of water, which isn’t a lot of water. This was also the reason for the type of pump. We did not have the unlimited water supplies that the cities have. So you learned to conserve what you had, and that nurse or mother tanker was critical in maintaining your attack on the wildfire.

From the dispatch office we learned that a fire had broken out on the district next to ours, so our initial assumption was that we would be sitting by the sidelines once again, listening, as another fire raged out of control, but to our surprise we were included in the initial dispatch, because we were actually the next closest unit to the fire origin. All the engines in those days had open crew seating, which meant you were open to the elements. While the driver or engineer, and the foreman or captain were inside, with another crewman sitting between the two. Also because of the earlier fire, there was a minimal crew for this dispatch. And being the junior crewman I was on the back of the unit where I could hear nothing of what was transpiring between the engine and dispatch. We left “red light and siren” and headed east out of the station. The winds were blowing hard and were cold. I was freezing, grabbing a wool blanket and wrapped up in it. Adrenaline was flowing, after all this wouldn’t be a small fire. These conditions made sure of that.

So began my experience on my first large wildland fire. As we continued east the grayness of dawn began to fade and soon the sun would be rising over the mountains with another day in the backcountry ahead and an unknown future for me. And if you missed part 1, here is the link back.  https://windmillsmetaphor4writing.wordpress.com/2013/08/03/a-slice-of-life-part-1/

Part 3 will be just ahead in a future post as I continue describing a slice of my personal past.

Blog Extra, Where are We Heading?

Opinion. For those who are not interested in politics please skip this post. For those who are on the left or are liberals this post is of no interest, since I am a conservative and quite proud of it. You have been warned and that is all I will say.

On Friday Mark Levin will be on the Hannity news program on the Fox network to explain how, through our Constitution, that we, as conservatives, can take our country back and bring a government out of control in all branches back to what our founding fathers envisioned, and then had the strength to go beyond the vision, and create a very unique document that can save this nation, if we will return to what is laid out within our Constitution. If we do not, then like this link on statement from President Regan this will become our truth, become our legacy. Please pay attention to his last statement because we are seeing this happen right before our eyes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jK2_trRPRk&feature=related

Oh, while on this subject, this question comes to mind; if Obamacare is so good why is the government opting out, unions opting out, and any who happens to have the ear or the owing of favors from this government wanting no part of this federal health plan? Then we are faced with this fact that this same government is going to spend millions of our tax money on national advertising (who gave them the right to use our money this way anyway?) to push Obamacare down our throats. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/07/24/you-may-not-want-to-know-how-many-hundreds-of-millions-of-your-tax-dollars-will-be-used-for-obamacare-marketing-campaign/

Continuing on with this distasteful subject of this universal healthcare we need to be aware of this also. CVS Pharmacies are hiring, at unbelievable per hour wages, not requiring any personal background checks on the ones they are hiring, to promote and sign people up for this very flawed health care system.   http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/07/26/cvs-to-invite-obamacare-navigators-into-stores-to-push-universal-health-care-sign-ups/

Speaking of a government out of control and out of touch. We are facing a government that is demanding that all user passwords be turned over to them so that everyone can be monitored by this government. So what is this about? Again if one wants to be honest it is Socialism at its finest. After all they (the government) are the elite, the ruling class, and all of us must bow at their feet or pay the price.  http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/07/26/report-feds-demand-major-internet-companies-turn-over-user-passwords/

All of this is just the beginning of the multitude of problems we face as Americans. With the left in control of all 3 branches of the government we are seeing unbelievable actions and laws coming out of Washington, as well as many State Governments. It seems that everyday we see more perversions of the Constitution, and complete ignoring of what they are and are not allowed to do. Again, with Washington, we hear, day after day, another illegal activity that this administration has been caught doing. Gun running, Benghazi, IRS scandal, NSA intrusions, and on it goes. Does Congress do anything at all about this? No, all you get is the rhetoric from them saying “we are going to get to the bottom of this”, and nothing happens. So we end up with this administration still in power when we have seen past administrations step down for far less. We see laws passed that are not even studied or read by the ones who are there to do this. If they had performed as they are in any private sector job, they all would be at the unemployment office, fired for being incompetent. Yet, we continue to reelect them – who is the fool in all of this?

Why have a budget, even though it is required? Yet, if one thing has been made clear it wouldn’t matter anyway. With the left and career politicians in control, spending is the way they want it, and it would not matter if there was a budget on the table or not. It would be ignored just as the Constitution is ignored. We are a country on the verge of bankruptcy, and are seeing the signs all around us, but does our government even care? Obviously not, as their spending has increased, including using your tax dollars to advertise. You keep hearing this word a lot now “FREE” this or “FREE” that, but there is nothing free in this life, and that money has to come from somewhere. It doesn’t magically appear. Oh yes, that’s right, there are still people out there that are working and we who are must support these freebies with the monies that the government demands from us. So it truly isn’t free is it?

One last thing in my rant and it still goes back to our national election where the incumbent won – but did he? I need you to pay close attention to this video as a programmer testifies before Congress, and listen to the percentages he is speaking  and the ease that this can be performed, and ask yourself this; what was the percentage that the president won this race by? Coincidence – I think not. So with all election results under their control, to have the outcome to be as they please, they can do whatever they want. After all they have the final word in all things, they are the law enforcement, they have the control, and from all that has come forth, it is obvious that they do not want to give it up – willing to do whatever is necessary – legal or illegal, to maintain the present status quo.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eER3oha8q2U

We are at a crossroads in this country. Either join the fight to save it or lose it and be one of the ones who will make that statement, which President Regan stated, become fact. But then it will be too late, and the elite in Washington, in the State Capitals, (look to California for example) across this great land, will laugh because they can do anything they please and no one can challenge them. Become one who is familiar with our Constitution. Understand your rights and put our politicians on notice that we will not tolerate this criminal disregard for the laws of the land, as they were laid out by our forefathers, at the beginning of this country. Or do nothing and watch our nation die.

Published in: on August 14, 2013 at 7:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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Thoughts on Life and Family

On a recent weekend, family gathered to celebrate, in an informal way, the matriarch of the family on my wife’s side who is 91. It was an interesting gathering with ages ranging from about 8 to her age of 91. Two of her 3 children were there, sisters both in their 60’s. A cousin who was also in that 60 to 70 age range the cousin’s grandson and great-grandson. We had 4 generations together, which is more common today than it used to be. To get more than 4 generations together is rare, but still happens. Part of the reason for this family gathering was the recent move, for the matriarch of the family, to a memory care facility, the selling of her home to cover the costs of such, and the family committing to visiting as often as time allows. Next month the oldest sibling was planning a visit from his home 1400 miles to the south, but health issues could delay his trip He is in his 70’s and such trips will eventually be impossible as time places penalties on us all.

Nothing is as constant as change and it seems to flow that way for all of us. Dreams die, directions change, and opportunities must be passed by. It is always a constant compromise between what needs to be done, and what can be done, what we’d like to do, and what we have no choice and must do. Freedoms are limited by the situation and time, and one does the best they can as they see it and regrets much in hindsight. Yet none of us are gifted with a crystal ball, so we fumble along the best we can in that moment when a decision has to be made. Sometimes it is the correct one, other times not. And when it is not the right decision we scramble trying to correct whatever action came out of that decision. Many of us will not live to see the results of our decision because those decisions led us to an earlier death. Many will, and as loved one pass, friends grow old along side of us, and memories fade,  many times that it’s here, with bittersweet thoughts, we think of the past.

That day we were together as a family, in a way, showed different points of reference since there were many generations present – from the child who was bored to death and not seeing or understanding what was going on to the ones who saw their future not too far off, and the matriarch who was only slightly aware of what was happening around her. So much history, and so little known or remembered, and at times with sharp memories surfacing of certain times and events. Is this not the path that most of us will fall upon? It is also a time when grown children will reminisce about growing up. With you as the parent, helping them grow, and shaping them, as you blindly tried your best, are left presently with their views, thoughts and insights as your child gives you a chance to see it all from their perspective – so different from yours.

Yet even with their views of how it was, the good, and yes the bad, even this can be bittersweet. Because you look at them as who they are, how their personal lives have gone, and know, for most anyway, that they grew up to be great individuals, caring, loving, and passing on their family traditions. And you view that matriarch and see the strengths and the weaknesses, and look at your mate knowing that she was raised by this woman and her husband, and in the end you are thankful for what they accomplished. If they had not, then we would never had met, never become more than our parts. Are any of us perfect? Of course not. We both have our faults, misunderstandings, and such, because that’s just how life is. Does this mean that we’ll eventually go our separate ways? No because we have a strong history that has taken us through some very hard times. And these hard times help build the necessary strength in our foundation.

Still when you see what is before you, you know that eventually there will be only one. With life, eventually there is death. It is the way of this world, and no one will ever escape this final part of life. We never asked to be born, nor do we necessarily look forward to the time when we will die, but it truly is the way of this world and this universe, which will also cease to exist sometime in the very distant future. All things begin, and all things end. So as we came together to celebrate one life, we also see ourselves and know that this is what awaits us. Will it be a new adventure as our physical body dies? Christians believe it is so, as do other religions. None will know the truth of this until we die, and if indeed there is life after death we will have no way of returning to let the physically living know. It is one of the final and great mysteries. But my feeling is this, life moves so fast that there must be something else.

I am a Christian and believe what is written. It is by faith that we live each day. Faith that things will go well at work, that we will return home. Faith that we will see another sunrise. And none of this is guaranteed. So as this time passed and we all returned to our homes, this event became a memory. So how will the family remember? Who knows, and who really cares. After all it was a time of sharing and of celebration, and each will have their own special memory of that time. For soon she will have moved on past that veil between life and death and another will take her place as the matriarch. Life will continue within the family even though there will be one less, and each will hold a special memory of her and of family, and that is all one can ask.

Published in: on August 10, 2013 at 7:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Slice of Life, Part 1

All of us, young or old, have a history. If you are only 5 years old your personal history may not seem to be very long, but that isn’t necessarily so. After all your history actually reaches back through your unknown ancestors. And if those ancestors hadn’t come together as they had, you wouldn’t be you. I know, for example, that my father was seriously interested in another woman before he met my mother. Circumstances were such that this first relationship failed. Had it not I wouldn’t exist, or if I did, it would be as a completely different individual, not knowing that the one writing these words could ever exist. And the chances that you became you seems to diminish as you go down your personal family tree. In the end this is probably what makes ancestry searches and such so popular. The problem with these searches is that you usually end up with a name, and if lucky maybe a picture. Who they truly were, how they lived, the problems they faced, and so much more remains a mystery. Sometimes though, you find a famous person and other times a villain, such is life.

So with these thoughts I decided to write this post and others in the following weeks showing a small part of my life, long before I found my life mate, before I was drafted, at a time where I had one goal after leaving high school, and that was to become a wildland firefighter. Of course, at that time in our history, these fires were not called by such. These fires were simply known as forest fires and you fought the same. Yet, since language is flexible, it is always changing, with words falling into favor and just as quickly falling out of favor once more. Again, with any who have followed this blog for any length of time it is known that I claim to be a country hick and proud of it. But my history begins as a city kid who moved to the country, to a remote piece of property with no power, no phone, and a windmill for water, when I was turning 7.

What an adventure that was for my brothers and myself. So much to do, so much to explore, so much to experience, and we did. In those first 3 years we came close to being burned out by some of those wildfires, and 47 years later it did finally happen. I feel that these early experiences pushed me in that direction of wanting to fight these fires. I became a seasonal employee of the USFS and did just that. I learned, fought small fires, and found that I really loved this kind of life and work. The Forest Service was for me and I reveled in the lifestyle. It was a time where many of the distance ranger stations had no phones, and some had only temporary power. A system of hand crank phones had been used so that these stations could contact or be contacted by the district office. It really made it seem like these stations were really isolated. In later years I was stationed at some of these locations and they truly were not that isolated – so goes one’s perception.

In the area where I grew up there are weather conditions that develop that can lead to these deadly wildfires. If one really thinks about it, almost anywhere one lives there is something either from the weather or the earth itself that can lead to natural disasters. It was at that time, in the fall, where highs and lows would form in such a way to create hot dry easterly winds. Many times the winds could easily gust to 100 mph (hurricane strength) with steady winds clocked at around 60 mph. Add to this mix a long hot dry summer, and humidities easily falling into the single digits, this meant that the wildlands were set for disaster. Again at this time, freeways did not exist, and it was usually that 2-lane blacktop road that had to be traveled. When these winds would arrive the roads would be closed – just too dangerous to travel.

These were the conditions that first year of firefighting, and of course, it still exists today. A large fire had broken out far north of us and equipment was being funneled to help (A common practice still used today). Again we had the winds and they had been clocked at 60 mph (from the station in Alpine), with the gusts pushing upwards to 90 (at the location of the fire origin that we responded to), logged at the Pine Hills station – an extreme situation. We all hoped that nothing would start where we were. After all, with the equipment pulled for another fire we were spread quite thin. All of us gathered around the radio to listen to what we could as to what was transpiring with the known fire. Of course we could only catch a little, and the rest was speculation and rumor. The way radio transmissions works for the USFS has to do with what they call repeaters. These are located on high peaks throughout the districts and National Forests. At the time one would manually switch between the repeaters to catch what was being said. Of course many would be pointed away from our location and so we could only catch one side or maybe a part of the conversation. When an engine would go so far in a particular direction it would change to the nearest repeater and we would lose the conversation.

It was a time of PBY’s and TBM’s as retardant drop planes (These were WWII surplus torpedo bombers converted to fight wildfires). A time where they could only be ordered into service once a fire had taken off with no control in sight. Today most retardant planes are included in the initial dispatch or response so that a fire can be stopped as quickly as possible. But there are limitations to what they can and cannot do. Once the winds start blowing with any strength, like what is being described here, they are grounded. Helitac  was just beginning and wasn’t a big factor, while today it is one of the major tools in fire suppression. This isn’t saying that they were not used, because they were. Hand crews, hotshots if you like, were transported into remote areas to work the lines, constructing fireline both where the fire is active and where it has already passed. In fact in one disaster it was determined that the helicopter was one of the influences. http://www.coloradofirecamp.com/fire-origins/loop-fire-brief.htm

It doesn’t matter whether you are part of an initial attack, or hotshots that come in later, once a fire has become large, this type of firefighting, not that any type of firefighting isn’t, is dangerous. In the link above this crew was doing one of the safest operations that one could do, but it still cost lives. Yet, when one attacks one of these wildfires such thoughts don’t enter one’s mind. It is you against nature as she rages out of control. It is hot dirty work and in my time, again today much is different, one could be on the fireline for as long as it takes. My longest shift was 36 hours, and that’s a long time to be fighting an active wildfire. On this particular fire where we had that 36 hour shift, we came off the fire for 4 hours and then returned for another 12 hour shift.

Still, I have to admit that I loved it. Loved the time of working the forest, fighting the fires, and all aspects that isn’t being mentioned here. Eventually an injury forced me out and I had to change my life direction. But for any of us that isn’t something that is unusual. None of us know what our future is, and that still applies today. As I stated above, In the following weeks I’ll continue with this, adding links, defining or explaining what is meant and will cover my first major fire and what happened. And in addition, I promise, for those who are unfamiliar with the terms that I will use, that I will attempt to explain them. After all every field and industry has its own terms usually only known to those who work within. We are presently in the middle of fire season and have already had one of those tragedies, similar to the link above, happen this year and these tragedies are never expected or wanted but are also a part of life. And with that I’ll close this week’s post with the narrative continuing next week and the following weeks.

Published in: on August 3, 2013 at 7:48 am  Comments (2)  
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