From the Fire

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Viveash Ranch, Sunday 6-2-13

Written by David Old in the midst of the Tres Lagunas Fire, which burned much of the Old family’s tree farm and historical ranch.

I am in town, having come down from the fire line for a fast bath and kiss from my wife. Shiloh is exhausted after three full days of fire watch and prep and a lot of shoveling and bull dozing. We had the house prepped as well as could be done in the time we had, and after two days the USFS showed up with some big and badly needed help. The fire burned for three days up the ridge by our house. Death by a thousand smokes it felt like. Yesterday it was within two hundred yards in the deep forest to the north. The yard above the house is burned already and relatively safe for now.

Rusty, Patrick, Jose, Kevin, Shiloh and I were working like mad on day one to get all ready and at last a Mr. Wood and Huie Lay showed up to tell us to ‘leave now’. They were right, albeit late. We iddy waah’ed out fast as a wall of smoke and fire ran up upon the Viveash mesa. Three hours in town where Zoe brought us a new water pump, food and water and we booked it back up. Mark Skoog stepped into the breach. This is like volunteering to go to a war.
Arriving at dusk we found many fires burning in and around our yard at the mill with wood piles lit up, trees exploding along the edge of the clearing not 100 feet from our workshop. We pumped water on the house, watched embers try to burn the house, the shops and everything else.

Bulldozer. What a tool! Shiloh cut line all around the place, he, Mark and I shoveled like mad. No help but ‘us chickens’.
The USFS had a lot of folks very busy down in the canyon, notably saving all the structures at Tres Lagunas: a world of second and third luxury homes.

Zoe called and called begging for help for us.
No bad people: bad system. We got ignored in the early stages of the fire for sure but I have to say the system sure worked and worked well when they finally got around to it…well, mostly.
Yesterday, as the fire again threatened to creep, wind-driven, back into our back yard, the Flagstaff Hotshots boss called in HEAVY air power.

We got a lot of slurry dumped and dumped extremely well on the house, the woods and the general area. Sky Cranes, heavy tankers made run after run.

That guy in the 340 Cessna lead plane is a Champ. Buy that man a cigar.

Shiloh and I ran up to the North End at Rosilla Peak. Smoldering, burning but relatively intact…for a while. We tamped out grass fires, prepped the ancient cabin and extinguished trees around the cabin in back on the fire line from the Viveash Fire.

It may or may not be there…odds are, not. (It made it, after numerous runs by the fire, we cleared and cleaned and put fire to the very walls…this went on for a week plus!). We got gutted like a catfish on the west side of the ranch.
The entire forested bowl to the north, the woods I have spent my life managing; Burned. We are facing another catastrophe on a possibly bigger scale than the Viveash Fire. Difficult for me to look at. We came down to bathe and sleep after inspecting a still smoldering mess in the woods at dusk. I am back off to the mess on my KLR 650. My back has had all the truck riding it needs for a bit.

David Isaacson was the IC in charge of our locale at Viveash. State Forestry to fire-proof Dave’s today, Tuesday, and wrap with foil. (Promised but never happened, we are a low priority compared to homes of rich below us).

Fire blew up in the canyon behind that cabin.

Fire creeping up ridge to Rosilla Peak.

Note: This was written over a week; the fire burned actively for over two weeks. We hosted fire crews for nearly a month as mop up went on. The USFS saved our home base but let thousands of trees burn within the line. That’s how they roll. They corral fires, then let the inside burn out. That’s their model. Sounds good unless the trees on the inside of that fire line are what you have spent your life managing….. We have lost over 600 acres of intensely burned, prime forested lands. The loss is staggering.

The only bright spot is that we do have use for many of these burned trees. They will go to good uses, good homes, making fine floors for nice folks. That’s a positive!