396. Fire Again

It was nine o’clock at night upon the second of August — the most terrible August in the history of the world. One might have thought already that God’s curse hung heavy over a degenerate world, for there was an awesome hush and a feeling of vague expectancy in the sultry and stagnant air. The sun had long set, but one blood-red gash like an open wound lay low in the distant west.      ACD

Talk about atmosphere. I was copying those words from His Last Bow by Arthur Conan Doyle, a story about how Holmes and the opening days of World War I, when the helicopters started going over.

I was a teenager and then a draftee during the Viet Nam War, although I didn’t actually go there to serve. For many of my generation, helicopters are like the four horsemen. We don’t run out to smile and wave at the pilots when they go over because, for us, they represent death from above.

I’m about to change my mind about that. My new impression of helicopters is tied to the red and white Cal Fire ‘copters, with those huge steel buckets hanging down, which drop down to local lakes to carry water to fires. I’ve certainly seen plenty of them lately.

This decade, where I live, has been a decade of fire. I wrote a post on that subject less than a year ago, and here I go again.

In the previous post, I opened with a picture taken from my front yard. I am opening this post with another, also from my front yard, taken a few weeks ago. In both cases, there is a lake between my house and the fire. The first fire burned 677 acres. This fire started in nearly the same place, but this time it burned 81,826 acres, so far, destroyed 63 homes, and threatened to destroy two nearby towns.

The day it started, my wife and I went down to watch the aerial ballet as DC 10s dropped fire retardant, spotter planes orbited high overhead, and Cal Fire helicopters carried tank after tank of water from the lake to douse the fire. This time they couldn’t stop it, and it eventually took thousands of firefighters to do the job. It still isn’t really over.

Then another fire broke out ten miles north of here and caused damage and confusion for two days. A day later, another fire broke out in the same area, and it is still burning.

Those helicopters I told you about? They weren’t part of any of those fires. They knocked down a fire less than a mile from my house. I heard them, closed my computer, and drove by back roads to a place I knew I could look without bothering the fire fighters. I needed to know if I should start loading the car to evacuate.

Nope. When I got to my overlook the helicopters had already knocked the fire down. To my eye, it looked like about twenty acres. When I turned around to come home, I saw a battalion of firetrucks arriving.

The helicopters got my attention at 4:55. I saw the knocked down fire at 5:05. It is now 5:45 and I am about ready to post this for tomorrow.

There aren’t enough words to thank firefighters, aerial and ground, but I do have two things to add:

I now keep my computer backup forty miles from here, and —

I’m thinking about moving to the rain forest.

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