Fire On The Hill

My wife yelled for me, loud and excited. I hurried outside., expecting an unwanted flat tire or that her truck wouldn’t start.

She blurted out, “FIRE!”

Dense black smoke to the south caught my eye. And bright yellow flames pulsated above the tree tops. When you live in the country, at the end of a gravel road, fire is the only word worse than “rattlesnake.”

It was several hundred yards away, maybe a mile or a little further. I dialed 911 and reported the fire. They knew about it and the lady asked me what road I was on. I told her and she said the fire was between us and a small town 4 miles away, she said to evacuate right now.

I told Debbie and she got together some stuff and her Siamese cat. But I had no intentions of leaving.

First thing, I wanted to know exactly what direction the wind was blowing. Inside the house, in my bear hunting gear, I had a ‘Wind Detection System’ made by Alpine Archery. I ran inside and pawed through my yet unpacked hunting stuff and found it. Then I hurried out near the gravel road and squeezed the Alpine Wind Detector.

Bad news.

The puff of powder blew straight toward my house.

The detector has a tether and I clipped it to my belt and a zillion time during the rest of the day I checked the wind. A few times it was back in my direction but mostly it was to the west.

This year there have been dozens of wild fires in the surrounding counties. My neighbor, Perry Wicker, and I have discussed what to do if one got to us. Step one was to water the place down and I got to work on that right away. I’ve got 400 yards of hoses — 200 of it goes from my house to a concrete stock tank that deer and other wildlife drink out of. I ran out to the tank and dragged the hose out near the road and screwed a big water squirter on in.

There are three outdoor water faucets in my yard and I hooked a hose and squirter to each one. I couldn’t see the flames now.

Next, I called Perry. Didn’t get him. So I texeted him. He called right back and was on the way and he said to hook up a hose at his place.

I did and then checked the wind again. This time it had changed directors and was now blowing to the West.

Perry arrived. He had just talked to the main guy with our one truck Volunteer Fire Department and there were four different fire departments at the fire and more on the way.

When Perry was a kid he had to fight to save the home place from fire before and he had laid out a plan for us based on past experience. Step one was to soak the ground around the house as well as the fire’s path of approach. And if the fire jumped our water barrier our plan was to saw down the trees in the yard  the house. Perry got his chain saws ready.

And we waited … and watched the smoke spreading out to the south and west.

We were lucky. The change in wind direction held.

Later in the day, when we felt the fire was no longer a threat to our area we drove over to see the status of the fire.

The fire was contained in our direction but it was still spreading toward the little town and to the land to the west. There is a high spot where you can look downhill and see a barn and other buildings where I live. The high spot’s ground was charred black and most of the trees were burnt up. Flames were burning from numerous isolated hot spots. Two helicopters were in the air.

Normally you can see for miles up where the fire was. But not today. Smoke billows up all around.

The 10:00 news reported that 14 fire trucks and the Forestry Department were fighting the fire. It was still only 35% contained. A few people were injured. Helicopters rescued the folks from several households.

Afterward, we drove out to look at it again. A quick look around showed that there was plenty of fire fighting activity going on.

We didn’t want to interfere with the fire fighting work in progress so we turned around to go home. On the way I took a picture of this burning tree (below), an isolated hot spot fire standing in the burnt ashes of the real fire.

The next morning we drove back out. The fire was still going but it was on the decline. Fire trucks were zipping around extinguishing hot spots and isolated fires. The picture below was taken from my truck. You can see the charred ground and smoldering hot spots.

A water truck from one of the nearby Volunteer Fire Departments is parked on the side of the road in the small town of Ireland, Texas. Both sides of this county highway were burnt by the fire.

Later that day the news reported the fire was 95% contained and the morning after there was no smoke in the sky. But later that day black smoke boiled up to the East. It was put down in a couple of hours. A land owner decided to burn some brush. We’ve been under a Burn Ban for months. Some people!