You never forget a wildfire

Photo:  Josh O'Conner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Creative Commons Flickr)

Photo: Josh O’Conner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Creative Commons Flickr)

I stepped out of the house this morning to an amber sunrise and the acrid scent of smoke. Not smoke from a neighbor’s grill or fireplace, but from distant wildfires.

My brother, Dad, and me

My brother, Dad, and me

You never forget that smell. Even now, a whiff sends me into a panic. It’s a visceral response from childhood.

I grew up in California with chaparral-covered hills on three sides of our house. And also across the street, as you can see in the photo. That scrubby brush has oily leaves and is drought-resistant. And man, it burns like anything. My dad installed a sprinkler system on the roof of our house.

Most of the big fires were across the narrow valley in Angeles National Forest, but some were in the hills behind our house (La Tuna Canyon). Have we loaded the cars to evacuate? A couple of times, yes.

And wouldn’t it figure, two of the neighborhood kids were fond of setting fires. Ah yes, Jack and Tony, prize delinquents-in-training. How many pre-teens have experience calling the fire department? *Laura waves her hand.*

My heart goes out to the people of northern Idaho, eastern Washington, and eastern Oregon. Fires like these create their own howling winds and become an inferno scary fast. We forget that brave men and women put their lives on the line to fight them. This week three firefighters died in the line of duty.

“It’s only a house. Be safe.” This was on a sign put up by an Idaho family as they evacuated. A timely reminder that possessions are unimportant, and life is fragile.

9 thoughts on “You never forget a wildfire

    1. Laura Hile Post author

      No rain on the horizon, Jen. Save for Saturday, 40%. This dry weather is typical for our summer season. The fortunate thing is that we have very little lightning here. Whereas east of the Cascade Mountains, yikes.

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  1. Susan Kaye

    The air out here–about 30 miles west of Laura’s location–is brown. A helicopter just flew over with a bucket underneath. I suspect a fire has broken out in the Coast Range mountains between us and the coast.

    At least the two sheriff’s deputies at the bottom of the drive are gone now. It’s been a busy day.

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      For us, perhaps Saturday morning. The forecast is up to 50%. It’s the eastern half of Oregon and Washington, and all of Idaho, that need rain.

      A friend from Idaho shared a photo of early Montana snow. That would work!

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  2. Sophia Rose

    That is a timely reminder about what is more important than the house. My husband and I grieved for the firefighter community, the families and the surrounding friends of those lost and have been praying for you all to get some wet stuff soon.

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      We don’t commonly think of wildland fire crews as facing death, just a lot of beastly hard work. But fires can turn deadly in a heartbeat. We are praying with you, Sophia Rose.

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  3. Susan Kaye

    I can see across the valley again. And it doesn’t smell likes ribs are ready to be consumed. Though, the fire three miles west of us–officially now the August Fire–still has the highway to the coast closed. We watched a heli shuttle water all afternoon yesterday. (Approximately 7 trips an hour for five hours. Phew.)

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Why yes, we DO want a piece of your mind. ;-)

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