When you live out in the country, at the far end of a gravel road, “fire” is the only word worse than “rattlesnake.” And I’ll never forget when I heard it back in 2011.
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 hit like a punch in the gut.
It was several hundred yards away, maybe a mile or slightly 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 to the south, she said, “evacuate right now.”
I told Debbie and she threw together some stuff and got her cranky 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 in and pawed through my yet unpacked hunting stuff and found it. Then I hurried out near the gravel road and stood facing the fire and squeezed the Wind Detector.
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 with it.
That year was exceptionally dry and there were dozens of wild fires in the surrounding counties. My neighbor and I had previously discussed what to do if a fire threatened us. Step one was to water the place down and I got to work on that right away. I have 400 yards of 100 foot 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 but the dark smoke was closer.
Next, I called my neighbor. 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 too.
I did and then checked the wind again. This time it had changed directors and was now blowing to the West. But half a minute later it changed to dead south, once again blowing toward the land and homes on my road.
My neighbor arrived. He had just talked to the main guy with the closest one-truck Volunteer Fire Department and there were four different fire departments fighting the fire and more on the way.
When my neighbor was a kid he and his mother had to fight to save the family’s home place from fire once and he had laid out a plan for us based on that 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 the plan was to saw down the trees in the yard around the houses. He got his chain saws ready.
And we waited … and watched the smoke and glowing flames spreading out and s inching closer.
We were lucky. A sudden change in wind direction held and the smoke and flames headed west.
Later in the day, when we felt the fire was no longer a threat to our area we drove around to see the status of the fire.
The fire was contained in our direction but it was still spreading toward the little, almost abandoned, 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 on the road 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.
The nightly 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 I drove back out. The fire was still burning 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 because of the dry weather. Some people!