Re: Australian Fires and Floods, L3, ATTN Jo Anne

2009-02-13 Thread Jo Anne
Doug -- No worries.  And I hope you're pronouncing Willamette right.  Every
time we have guests from out of the area we have a pronunciation session on
wil-LAM-et, instead of the other way they usually want to pronounce it =+))


Jo Anne


Re: Australian Fires and Floods, L3, ATTN Jo Anne

2009-02-12 Thread Charlie Bell

On 12/02/2009, at 7:48 AM, Jo Anne wrote:
 BTW, Ray and Maree went back to Australia on Feb. 4.  They live S.E.  
 Melbourne.  I haven't heard from them and I hope they are OK.  Does  

I haven't spoken to them, but I don't think there were any fires  
around them - the Gippsland fires were about 40km to their east. But  
I'm sure they're a bit nervous - it's tinder dry everywhere, and  
they're on a hill.


Re: Australian Fires and Floods, L3, ATTN Jo Anne

2009-02-12 Thread Doug Pensinger
On Wed, Feb 11, 2009 at 12:48 PM, Jo Anne wrote:

 Doug -- what a fascinating account!  I think your brother-in-law ought to
 write a book.  So few of us ever experience that kind of thing.

 Freight trains certainly get a bad rap in the noise department.  The
 Engineer's brother and his gf were in the path of Ike.  They were in the
 for somewhere around an hour.  They described the sound as 'like a freight
 train', too =+)).

 I think you have me confused with Barbara Ott - the other crone that used
 be on the list.  She lives up in the Sierra somewhere (I used to know, but
 can't remember now).  I live in Portland, OR.

 Barbara's husband worked for the Forest Service and she talked about how
 crews would have to make the decision all the time about which houses to
 save.  If a house had a shake roof, a big wooden deck as was in fuel, you
 could pretty much write it off.  Makes me think about my own house here in
 Portland.  We have a metal roof, but have big evergreens all around us and
 huge deck.  We typically don't have fires in town, though, but who knows
 what can happen these days.  Hotter, dryer summers seem to be in the

How embarrassing, yes I was confusing you with Barbara.  I should have
remembered that you're up in the Willamette Valley (hope I got that right).
Sorry about that.


Re: Australian Fires and Floods, L3, ATTN Jo Anne

2009-02-10 Thread Doug Pensinger
Charlie wrote:

Or give something to your local volunteer fire service. In a few
 months, it'll be the northern hemisphere on fire.

So true.  There were two fires in Santa Cruz county last June which, prior
to that, had been known as asbestos county because of the lack of
wildfires over the previous century or so.  My sister's brother, his brother
and his brother's son are all firefighters, so I get a little of the inside
poop.  Here's a little bit of it from my brother in law.  The background is
that he's a firefighter in the Santa Cruz area but has been assigned to a
strike team fighting a fire in Butte county north of Sacramento, near where
Jo Anne lives.

We arrived at Chico Base on June 25th with a strike team of 5 Type I engines
and a leader.  We were generally on a 24 hour schedule, although our days on
usually started by 5am and we never really relaxed until dinner time the
next day.  When in base camp we ate large portions of institutional food
served in a huge building on the Fairgrounds.  On the days we deployed we
picked up sack lunches and MRE's and filled coolers with ice, water and
Gatorades.  Showers were available in a trailer unit after standing in lines
using a disposable towel.

Because of the heat and workload we all drank gallons each day to avoid
dehydration.  Some nights we were able to catch naps on the fire line or a
dusty Drop Point on the ground or pretzled into the engine.  We cut fire
line with hand tools both directly and indirectly on the fire.  We also put
in long hose lays to directly fight fire or to support another operation.
 We worked with other firefighters from all around the state each day.

After working above the dusty Concow area for 10 days we were ready for a
change.  We were assigned structure protection on the 7th up the Feather
River Canyon at the small hamlet of Tobin.  Here we deployed and prepared
the structures in case the wind picked up again and blew the fire across the
river.  At about 10 pm we were re-deployed to structure protection the in
Concow area.  We were told that the Camp Fire had crossed a control line and
was headed directly towards Concow with our nearest strike team a while

We were assigned to Mountain Pine Rd.   We assessed the 4 houses, 2 of which
were occupied.  We urged both families to leave as soon as they could as we
saw the orange glow approaching across the canyon.  With 4 homes and only 1
engine we were faced with the tough decisions.  We chose to make a stand at
the house we were most likely going to be able to save.  Fortunately the
homeowners seemed to know what we would be doing and the house was nearly
prepared for us.  They had moved most of the combustibles away, had a green
lawn with only a few trees and ladder fuels directly next to the house.
They already had a ladder to the house roof as well as the garage.  All of
the garden hoses were accessible.  The house had wood siding and,
thankfully, a composition roof.  Although the homeowners had left the house
locked one of our crew members was able to crawl in to the garage through
the dog door and then we pulled the pins on the door to the house.  We
unlocked all of the doors so we could easily access the house if we needed
to.  We checked for light drapes or any other combustibles in front of the
windows.  Then back outside where we moved the wooden patio furniture into
the garage.  Up on the roofs we went to check for combustible litter.  The
engineer deployed a hose line to the front of the structure and another to
the front as well as a self-protection line on the ground.

We knew the fire was approaching as we heard the freight train sound.  We
saw the orange glow take definition as the flames crowned in to the nearby
trees.  The other engine on the road closer to the fire had reported such
extreme fire behavior that they had already taken shelter in their chosen
residence.  I knew we were next.  The roar of the crowning fire got louder
as it circled us at first then started numerous spot fire behind us.  My
crew stayed on the hose line taking shelter until an object near and
directly threatening the home began to burn, these spots are where we
concentrated our efforts.  There was no way we were going to put out this
fire with our 600 gallons of water so we were in conservation mode.  The
engineer used his hose line to keep our engine from burning on the side
directly facing the flame front.  There was a tree on fire next to the house
which we pulled the line to, then the wooden fence, then the wood pile on
the back side of the large garage.  The line would not reach so we added
another 100' of Wildland inch-and-a-half.  All the while we were breathing
in hot air and smoke and being pelted by burning brands and over 50 mph
winds with the fire as loud as a locomotive and flames well over the height
of the mature trees rolling over our heads.  The smoke, heat embers and
inability to see or breath was finally such that we took shelter in the
house.  I