Monday July 24 2017
The Fire Talk. Comes with summer and thunderstorms and from a spring and summer that produced highly flammable and prevalent cheat grass and weeds after an unprecedented winter of moisture.
The Fire Talk came up a couple of weeks ago as we helplessly watched our B.C. Canadian friends evacuated, barred from going in or out, or trapped on their place surrounded by fires (so far, they are OK, and back home, but the fires are still on-going.)
What would we do here?
We're 5 miles down a dirt road - surrounded by cheat grass-laden BLM land. Between 4 residences, we have 20+ 4 legged equids (and a passel of goats and dogs and such). (And, if you count the next neighbors, add 15 or so more horses, though they have some big dry lots.) The main way out is this bumpy 1-lane dirt road. An alternate way out is a much longer bumpier 1-lane dirt road that leads up to the Owyhee Mountains, and eventually off in different directions.
We have a big water tank on a trailer… but what comes out of that is not much more than a regular hose's worth of pressure. We've mowed weeds, but they're still growing and they leave dried stumps behind. We have plenty of green grass and trees around the house, and some dry paddocks. Plenty of water spigots around if the electricity is on. A small generator or 2. But what is all of this if a fire is roaring, and a 40 mph wind is blowing, and the fire creates its own weather and wind?
We have several horse trailers, either 2 or 4 horse trailers… but 1 trip with each would not accommodate all the horses.
It depends on where the fire comes from and how close it is.
And when. Daytime? Middle of the night? More than once, I've been startled awake by a thick, acrid smell of smoke. I've jumped out of bed and run outside looking, hiking, climbing hills… trying to see from whence a fire might be coming (it's always been from fires some 40 and more miles away, but you wouldn't know it by the heavy smoke smell).
And it depends on where the fire comes from, and how close it is - that will determine what we do. If we have time to haul horses - great. If we don't, then what. Do we just have to jump in our cars and flee to save ourselves? I've got a bag packed by the door. I hope I never have to grab it, but I know where my keys are hanging. Do we have time to round the horses up and chase them out? Where? Up our canyon? Out the back gate east? Down the main dirt road northeast? Up the dirt road west? The barbed wire gates are open and ready if we need to chase horses up or down the road.
We have the memory of the Soda Fire from 2 years ago - 300,000 acres that came within 15 miles - still burning in our minds. Now we have thunderstorms in the forecast this week, and a Fire Weather Watch today from noon to midnight.
Another reason I hate summer: I HATE FIRE SEASON.
We can just wait and watch and hope and pray it's not the year for this area to burn.