Thursday, June 23, 2011

Droughts & BBQ's - a bad recipe

I know my last post was in regards to the drought that's been going on... and while you generally consider some of the most immediate issues with a drought (i.e. dead lawns, gardens not growing well, hay not growing for feeding the livestock, etc), you don't really entertain ideas regarding wildfires... so it was definitely an eye-opener to have that very situation brought almost literally to my front doorstep.

On Father's Day - an event that is typically a day for family gatherings and BBQ, a gentleman who lives around the corner from us went indoors for a few moments and left his grill unattended. Those few minutes were devastating to a large number of people. While he took the precaution of lighting his grill near his back fence and well away from his house, he didn't take the extra time to douse the ground around his grill... he wasn't present when an ember popped out of the open grill and caught the pine needles layered on the ground on fire... by the time he came outside, it was too late... there was too much for him to be able to put out by himself. The wind kept the fire traveling away from his house, and ultimately, he lost no possessions in the fire. Sadly, there were many people in the vicinity that are not as fortunate as him. 

Thank you to so many of my friends for keeping us in your thoughts through this 5 day fiasco.  We are safe and out of danger thanks to the firefighters, the forest service and the lastly the rain that saved the day.  I lost track of how many departments showed up to help, and I know that there were many individuals from different parts of both Texas and Oklahoma that participated in trying to eliminate the fire. It was absolutely astounding to see so many different entities and individuals join smoothly together in such an enormous undertaking...
I was asked to put something together - so here is a quick look at what went on.
Although it never got closer than 200 yards to our house, it wouldn’t take long to burn as dry as it was.  The neighbors lost over 2 acres of forest in less than an hour.   Most of the woods are extremely thick, with layers of leaves and pine needles on the ground... lots of kindling and tinder to catch embers and light up easily.
Having to pack everything of value in an hour, makes you realize how much excess we have. It was an exercise that we had to participate in when we saw flames lapping at the street that ours meets... 
Here is a view from our driveway on Sunday facing the street that the fire started on.  The fire started 600 yards to the right of this frame.
Aftermath of a flare up that happened on Monday afternoon, it almost made it to the street, this is when we started to pack to evacuate.
Monday afternoon a neighbor and my husband took their front end loaders out and cleared some paths to hopefully slow or stop the ground fire from spreading toward our houses.  They cleared 2 miles of brush but as you can see the trees are so close together it could still spread if it got hot enough. 
Flare up on Tuesday afternoon as the winds changed from South to Northwest to a West to East direction and then back East to West.  The winds were gusting 15-20 mph.  This is when the helicopters really started to fly overhead and dropping water.
I took a video of the helicopters that were dropping the water after the Tuesday flare up.  This was a new helicopter that was picking up a bag to join in the firefighting.  I uploaded it to the KBTX live blog that was set up for covering the details in a live setting (dedicated to the fire and its victims to monitor the activity), and it was picked up and used on the KBTX news out of Brian/College Station.  At one point we had 4 helicopters dropping water constantly on our area for 4 hours.