Date: Tuesday, August 18, 2015 11:50 pm
I’m working on the Fork Fire incident in California. Darvin is my partner as a two man crew of timber fallers working with the fire fighting crews. We support their efforts and help make things safer for them by taking out the super crazy dangerous trees they are not qualified or comfortable with falling theirselves.
We started the day being ordered out by a dozer operator who seems to enjoy running the show from the seat of his machine. He told us to go up a dozer line and do some tree removal operations to improve a fire line. We headed up. It was a whole mountain to climb – up steep shale inclines. We forged onward and upward taking a lot of breaks.
No sooner did we break up on top than we realized I had forgotten our gas container filled with mixed saw gas. It was a long way down. I headed back down and Darvin said not to hurry as he needed a break. I didn’t. I got down to the bottom and just the person I didn’t want to see, the dozer operator was parked right beside the truck. But he was so distressed he didn’t notice why I was back there and he had been chewed out by management for excessive radio traffic. (He talks a LOT on there).
They had made a better parking space on the one lane road around the steep mountain side and told me to move the truck to the better spot. I did. It was a couple of miles down the road at the bottom of the steep mountain we had climbed I was a long way out of the way for my path back so I took a short cut (!!) across country to the work area. It took awhile, and I thought I was lost but forced my intellect to rule my emotions and forged ahead.
By the time I got to the top again I was exhausted. Darvin was missing but I found the saws and packs and reclined to ponder my next move. I thought about taking a nap.
Pretty soon a dozer whose radio name was Bushy Dozer came up and told me my partner was looking for me. It had taken so long Darvin started worrying I had had a heart attack or something, and was probably in deep trouble and needing help all alone in the forest (we were both in our ’60’s) with no one to apply medical procedures.
After awhile he could be seen far below making his way back up the hill. He seemed tired and walked pretty slow – taking a few steps and resting, pausing in the shade of a bush for a break, etc.
He was mad. I got chewed out. We both needed a long break to rest up but it was noon and we had done nothing yet so we soldiered on up the hill cutting trees. For about 200 feet and 10 trees. Then Darvin was so tired he was shaking and said he needed to stop for a lunch break so we spread out our lunches in a picnic fashion and reclined in comfort for a few minutes leaning up against a pine tree. Bushy Dozer left seemingly in disgust ( mad Bro?) and went on back down the hill. We got up in a short while and forged upward and onward. Another 100 feet and a few more trees and we spotted flames. Fire activity was quite pronounced and trees were torching on both sides of the fire line. Something was wrong with this picture. We had learned in fire class that this was NOT normal. We could barely see up the fire line where our next trees were. I suggested our day was over.
Darvin called Division on our radio and got the reply no big deal it was doing that yesterday. “Hmmm” – My personal assessment: “Nope it was not good.” On my last tree I broke my saw. Darvin’s saw fell apart also a little while later while I was working on mine. It was a Monday. He called Division back and said we were not going to continue up the line so then Division decided to hike up. It took the young guy 45 minutes to power up to where they had sent us old guys to soldier on our own. Meanwhile we took apart both saws and came up with one that worked. Break time.
Division came up the hill, took one look and in the finest logger/firefighter lingo expelled a heartfelt word that means something like sex gone amuk. In less than 5 minutes it seemed the hill was swarming with more dozers, hand crews, supervisors and there began to be water drops from about 5 birds (helicopters).
We reclined on the sideline and watched the show in delight. It was about time we got to relax. They sent up two crews who were made up of inmates in bright orange
suits. They were jolly for the most part. One told us how hard the hike up was but then opined philosophically that if you could make it (with a grand gesture in our direction) then surely they could, “No offense!”, They politely exclaimed. “None Taken!” I gestured back with equal grandeur.
The many helicopters had varying degrees of success in hitting the appropriate hot spots of fire but at least three of them had considerable luck and success at dousing the orange suits with their water drops. After at least half a dozen such episodes, with orange suited convicts scattering like a flock of chicks in all directions, one began to suspect intent. One of the helicopters was a National Guard ‘Copter, which seemed most accurate at dropping water on the orange suits.
Soon it was time to hike down the hill. We were thanked by Division for reporting the situation in time so that they might possibly be able to catch it. I.E. our timing was impeccable in my own words.
By the time we got close to the truck we were both barely managing with shaky legs and exhaustion threatening to make us look like losers to the young fellers so we set off across country where there would be no witnesses to our shameful lack of youthfulness. Bed was never so sweet. Dinner? Shower? Nah. Wash hands and face with hot water and hobble to tent and bed and drop. Lights out. Crazy Day Over!