Sunday, July 25, 2010

Swakane Fire final update

This is the only structure lost during the fire.  The old barn was a gathering spot for many folks.  In fact, just after I took this picture a senior lady drove past the road closure to see if the barn was still standing.  Not the typical person that I expected  to see violating a road closure!

Sometimes you just get lucky.  The fire blew down the canyon pushed by high winds.  This is the Washington State Fish and Wildlilfe headquarters for the Swakane Wildlife Area.  The wildlife area did allow camping with the fish and wildlife parking permit, but it looks like next year before I would want to camp here.  The fire perimeter is 20,000 acres.

I was tired after working ten days at 13 hours a day just dealing with the media and public.  Most of the job was doing interviews and answering questions and updating the InciWeb site.  The fire crews work 12 hours straight for 14 days before getting a break.  Ah, to be young again.

It is a tough, dirty, dangerous job.  Check out the pack and the size of the chainsaw that he packs around on the job.  The fire crews have lots of college students that are paying for their higher education by fighting forest fires.  As noted in a previous blog the Forest Service has probably financed more college educations in the past hundred years than any other federal agency (excluding the Department of Defense, of course).    I was impressed with the professionalism, hard work, and attitude of today's fire crews.  Those of us "older types" on the fire remarked on how much "better" todays firefighters are in some many categories.

On many fires it really does not matter if you shoot photos in black or white or color they still come out in black and white!  This hillside looks the same in color! 

Fires have a horrible beauty of their own.  Everything changes.  The hardest part for me is the smell.  The smoke is bad enough, but you know it will go away after a couple of months at the longest.  The smell of charcoal or if you prefer burned wood just hangs in the air.   I know a lot of people like the smell of a campfire, but trust me the smell of charcoal is pretty yucky on a large scale.

There Swakane Wildlife Area is grass and shrub in the lower elevations and it will recover fairly quickly.  The large fires that burn in the timber take decades if not centuries to recover.   But there is always hope for the future.  The seeds of renewal will soon spread on the wind.

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