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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The distraction of fire

You're damn right the codger's been quiet. The Humbolt fire, which started on June 11 was too close for comfort and a lot of good people lost their homes. We packed our bags the first day, and then sat around listening to the radio. The fire started on Doe Mill Ridge as seen above from our place. It crossed Butte Creek Canyon, climbed the next ridge, and swept through lower Paradise, the next town down the slope from us.

Hale and rain arrived 10 days later, but not enough to have an effect. Instead, a spot fire broke out under a power line about a mile away from home, and this is what we saw.

A spotter plane and a tanker showed up that afternoon, and 6 dumps of retardant put it out.

Bearing witness is a helpless feeling, and a lot of strange and foreboding thoughts flash through the mind, but your esteem of firefighters soars.

By Sunday the 22nd, it was time to get away. There was no call for evacuation in our neighborhood, it was just that the redhead was fretting so much. We drove 125 miles to the Sierra Nevada Field Campus to meet Jim Steele and put out some camera traps.

We passed a new fire that had just started in the lower Feather River Canyon, and just beyond Quincy we saw this. No, those are not clouds.

SF State's field campus was well beyond the lightning strikes. It was a lovely afternoon, and we set four camera traps.

I couldn't resist placing two in an alder thicket.

The signs of mountain beaver were everywhere.

One good thing has come out of the smoke and fire. I've been housebound and busy hammering out a camera trapping manual for the workshop in a couple weeks.


Mr. Smiley said...

This reminds me of the situation in Canberra, Australia just before I sold my house and moved 3000 km north to the tropics. We had a huge fire sweep up a valley on a day when the temps exceeded the 100 degree mark and there were high winds and in the midst of a draught. At the end of it, 300+ houses were destroyed, several people lost their lives and the countryside devastated forever. My house was up for sale and the "buyer' had not yet signed the papers. It so so dark outside at 2.00 pm in the afternoon that the street lights had come on. All you could see was a ring of orange--almost 360 degrees. Lit twigs were dropping from the sky, and my house was not sold! The local ABC radio network was doing a terrific job telling residents where the fires were and what to do, I was on the roof with the hose and filling the gutters. The sprinklers were on wetting the extensive "native garden" we had which contained much dry leaf litter.

In the end the fires were a few kilometres from our house but the countryside was destroyed forever. All of the big trees and shrubs were gone. "Fire tornadoes" had uprooted giant eucalypts and moved them metres away from where they had grown. Today the aspect around Canberra is mostly weedy growth. Some planting have occurred but they are still in the midst of the drought and there is not much point in planting small trees under such conditions.

So in brief, I know what you went through. Not a happy time.

Mr Smiley

brdpics said...

Hang in there, Codger- I'll do a rain dance for you.

Best- Willy

Rolandisimo said...

Hey Codger,
Speaking of manuals, you might be interested in a chapter on cameratraps I wrote in a book that just came out. The book is designed as a sort of manual.



cliff said...

Smart idea to pack and leave for a while Codger. I fought many timber fires when working in Washington State and some were pretty nasty to work on with the steep ground and not too many roads.

I'm still trying to find the time to set a couple of cameras out for Mt. beaver but have lots of bear pictures now so might head out for elk and deer soon. Still have lots of snow in the high country so might have to wait till fall.


Beverly said...

Dang Chris, hang in there! I know how it feels, too; I’m in Southern Colorado and we’ve had our share of both drought and fire the past few years. When it ‘rains ash’, it’s scary as hell to me and is even more upsetting as it brings back memories of a movie that upset me psychologically. For some reason I found myself in a similar state of mind as when watching the movie…perhaps it was the stress. I know its nuts, but I’ve not experienced ‘raining ashes’ all that much, so all I could think of was Shindler’s List, in spite of having lived in the San Isabel Nat’l Forest, which is long over-due for a good burn, and having seen the wrath of several fires. One came perhaps ten miles from La Veta (after I had moved into the town from my cabin in the woods) and watching the clouds of smoke block the sun is more than a little eerie, huh?

You have many people sending you and your red-head well-wishes and more than a few doing rain-dances…you outta be fine! - Beverly

Jackie said...

I was wondering how the fire onslaught affected you. Sure hope all of those fires get rained on, soon. We have a big fire in my neck of the Sierras too. Convection clouds developed today, sure hope they form throughout the state and douse some of these raging fires.

Jack Cranford said...

Hi Chris and the Redhead Take a care my friend and get out and take the syuff you will miss, leave the rest and take all you legal type papers. Good luck my friend Jack Cranford

Camera Trap Codger said...

Thanks a lot, friends. We've been packed and ready to go all week, and I've been blowing leaves and watering like a fiend. Today the smoke let up a bit. and firefighters from Utah and the southern California National Guard are joining the ranks. 45% containment. I'll keep you posted.