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Entered By: Mark
Entry Date: 2015-05-21 10:07:24
Subject: Forest Fire

On Monday we enjoyed John's return home. We celebrated by sending him right to work, putting out forest fires. The day he returned the fire was coming down the cliff opposite of our neighbors farm. John, David and some local men made sure the fire did not cross the narrow, dry creek bed which can happen when trees burn and fall. Around midnight, John and David returned home and the fire seemed to have change direction. It did.

On Tuesday we began to hear the cracking and popping of inflamed trees, but this time it was directly behind our property, on the opposite cliff. John led the charge out to try and impede the fire before it spread around the bend and came up our cliff. You could see the fire make a straight line, from the bottom of the creek bed to the top of the peak, about 500 feet long. We called them back because of the danger of smoke inhalation. Besides, fighting fire without water on a cliff is ineffective, besides the danger imposed by falling down the slope. It was advancing slowly and looked like it would arrive around nightfall. This time we all went out to prepare for a fight.

Side note, there is no water to fight fires with here. You simply go to the flames and try to beat them down with a tree branch, shovel, shoes or something.

Simply waiting for a fire to arrive seemed too painful to bear. We could not safely extinguish a 500 line of flame on a cliffside, so we began preparing our side of the mountain for the coming flames. We raked up several hundred pounds of dry pine needles, and chopped down about half an acre of brush in a couple hours. The fire was still slowly moving our way. With more hours to wait, we decided to burn a path so that the fire could not cross by ground. We made a path of pine needles about 600 foot in length, and burnt a trail that was no less than six feet wide. 

During this time, John was leading some of the older boys to chop down brush where the fire would likely cross a small divide. The neighbors were defending their small gardens and the retreat center was running weed trimmers along their fence line, cutting the dry grass down to the dirt.

At nightfall the strong winds died down and the fire seemed to have stopped spreading as fast. The line of flame had passed our field of vision. We knew that it was still alive because of the orange glow that rose above the tree line. Still, we could not hear the crackle and pop of burning trees. In the dark, we could see a lot of tree stumps glowing red from the internal burn of an oil inside the stumps locally known as "acote" (ah-coh-tay). Acote is used like lighter fluid here. It saturates the core part of a pine tree and is probably its reserve of energy, used when sun and rain are scarce.

The flames again moved a different direction but this time it had burnt all of the easy paths to our property, and our neighbor's. Frankly, we were more concerned about our neighbor's coffee farm as it would have been a devastating loss to him and his family. They have spent decades building the farm and I hold anyone who can make a living with plants here, in high regard.

So it seems the threat of wildfire is gone for our own property. The only thing we have left to contend with is the smoke. During the day, the sun raises the wind which blows in fresh air. However, when night falls, the wind dies and the smoke settles in. Our visibility is maybe 400 feet at dawn. We're just battling some respiratory problems at this point. Bubby seems to have the worst of it.

A little local lore regarding respiratory infections here. Many people believe that bronchitis and pneumonia are more common during the dry months because it gets hot in the day and cools off at night. Call me a yankee, but I tend to think it has more to do with frequent forest fires and dense smoke, but that's just opinion.

Replies to this message
re: Forest Fire  by Lora Walker on Thursday May 21, 2015
     re: Forest Fire  by Mark on Thursday May 21, 2015
         re: Forest Fire  by Lora Walker on Friday May 22, 2015
         re: Forest Fire  by mike rockert on Friday May 22, 2015
         re: Forest Fire  by Jake Karam on Thursday May 21, 2015
             re: Forest Fire  by Mark on Friday May 22, 2015

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