The night of the evacuation a group of our neighbors got together down at a gathering place in town and we all decided to make our way back up the mountain to fight for our homes. We piled in vehicles and pressed up the mountain, stopping for nothing and no one as many vehicles blocked the road and we were told either not to go up or that we shouldn’t. We did. Our group fought all night and into the next day and the next evening. Some of the men have to be up at or around 4:00 am for their regular job normally, so by the time we got people trickling up in the aftermath they had been up well over 30 hours and going non-stop. While I am sure it will not be in the official record anywhere, we all know that we stopped the fire at the head of the canyon; the convergence of two major fires with another less than a mile away.
The next day several fire crews found our site and began to set up for the attack. Reinforcements had arrived!
After a brief flyover they assessed a neighbor’s pond and received permission to dip. One of our local homeowners when he heard that they had to ask for permission first from the pond owner, who lives in Mississippi, he said, “I give them permission…we all saved his house last night!” Which we did, keeping the flames at bay until an out of town engine arrived and the local Glenwood-Caribel Volunteer Fire Department brought a water truck to stop the flames in the field and front yard (A shout out to Monty). Yet, I digress…
The two men you saw in the first picture went along the burn line and marked with red ribbon on the ground for the pilot to see the hot spot(s). He soon began to dip and drop 150 gallons of cool, refreshing water on the flames per pass. I should have kept count of the trips, but no one thought to…we would have lost count anyway in our groggy state.
You can see here the basket as it is full and headed toward the waiting flames, the tables of anxiety now turned against them instead of us. It was a sight for sore eyes watching them be instantaneously doused. We could not get close enough to get a good picture of the water hitting the ground – sorry! Besides, I was so intent on catching the water coming out of the bladder that I didn’t even try that hard.
After the main flames were knocked down the crews moved in to go through the wooded area and put out the remaining hot spots and reassess.
Upon investigation they decided to bring in a D6 CAT Bulldozer to punch in firebreaks. The result was amazing! I don’t know exactly how many hotspots were buried by that heavy blade of steel, but I do know that that night we were extremely grateful that the lines were there as we could get our water trucks to the flare ups that began to top out in the trees in time to attack and put it out. This was repeated over and over through the night and then just before dawn it wall quieted down. We slept in our trucks, on our 4 wheelers, or, in my case, a busted bale of straw that didn’t make it to the wagon in time to leave the field before the fires came. We didn’t sleep for long, maybe 20 minutes when we started back up on our patrol. It was a good thing as we were just in time to catch a nice sized flare up that started more trees on fire. Chains saw, pumps, shovels, and axes went to work and again we emerged from the thicket besmeared, weary, and triumphant!
It wasn’t long after daylight that reinforcements arrived and some started trickling our way back to a soft place inside to lay down and get a few hours of sleep until the next round.
The camaraderie, fearlessness, and grit-in-your-teeth hard work of all the help was amazing to watch and to be a part. I feel compelled to try to chronicle small parts as they come up and to my attention as I know that this event will be a part of our lives forever.