Lime Hill Fire: A day in the life of a rookie
“No man, even when the gods favor him, can control the wind…” ~Firestorm at Peshtigo
It was day 14 of a our second stint of 14 days in southeast Oregon; in other words, it was day 30. Engines from all over the country were there to help the local fire district catch fires and put them down as quickly as possible to protect sage grouse habitat. We did our engine swap with the new crew there to take our place and mentally prepared for a day of sitting in the yard waiting to go home. Briefing was done shortly after 11 am and everyone scattered to their engines, offices, or training. Just after noon a fire call came in. We didn’t think we would get called out because we were slated to go home and because we were last out, but about 30 minutes after everyone else rolled out, we got dispatched as well.
When we got to the staging area and looked at the smoke in the distance, we heard reports that the fire was 300 to 500 acres. By the time we headed up into the mountains to await direction, we heard 4,500 acres. While we sat on the top of the hill above the fire and waited, we watched the erratic winds shift from direction to direction, pushing the fire around like leaves on an autumn day. Not long after arriving we were told to start burning out to consume the fuel between a road and the fire to cut the fire off. But as the day wore on and with the help of the wind, the fire, like a mythological three headed beast, seemed to grow three new heads when one was cut off.
As dusk fell, those up on the north end were flanked by the fire and we watched as the fire thwarted our best efforts and closed in around us. We found safety in the black and waited for the fire to do what fire does: burn out. The fire raced toward a small town, toward a freeway that had to be closed as a result, and toward private property. Once we were able to get out, we met up with others to protect property and worked into the dark hours of the morning before being discharged to go home. Last report was that the fire was 12,000 acres.
High Country News article on Sage Grouse: The Endangered Species Act’s Biggest Experiment, http://http://www.hcn.org/issues/47.14/biggest-experiment-endangered-species-act-sage-grouse
Posted on August 11, 2015, in Nature and the Environment and tagged 2015 fire season, BLM, drip torch burn out, fires in Oregon, Lime HIll Fire, Oregon, protecting endangered species from fire, protecting habitat, rookie firefighter, sage grouse habitat, wildland fire. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.