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Playing with Fire

Fire have always fascinated and followed me.  As a kid I played with matches, but who didn’t.  I grew up in Hollywood, not too far from the ‘Hollywood’ sign and next to lots of open space hills.  I had my fire escape route planned out by the time I was 4.  I’d lay awake at night thinking about the 2 or 3 things I’d grab when the big one came.  At 6 years old, the Big One did come.  My mother was out of town; my father and big sister were at the movies, and I was with the babysitter.  A large out of control fire was roaring up the hillside near the Observatory, just blocks from my house, at night.  The babysitter awakened me to tell me we had to evacuate. I watched that night fire so close to my house.  It was a beautiful sight.  Huge sparks fell on my house roof.  I didn’t want to leave.

During the summers it was routine to watch the brush fires being fought by the fire department from my house.  I even remember watching and eating cookies.  One summer when I was nine, at a camp on Catalina Island an hour from Avalon, a large fire broke out. Only myself and another girl were around.  We pulled the fire alarm, alerted the rest of the campers, and let the horses loose.

As I grew up and moved to Northern California, many times I was the first one at a house fire or wildfire and called the Fire Department.  I’ve never fought a fire, but fire seemed to always be part of my experience.  Given another lifetime, I think I’d go to the Fire Science School at U of Nevada.

So when my retired fire fighter friend woke up yesterday morning and said “Let’s burn the big brush pile”, I thought “YES”.   Its the brush pile I’ve written about before, the leftovers from the logging they did this winter.

Brush pile before we burned. Dog for reference of size.

There’s several of them scattered over many different properties.  I don’t have land on the forest, so I don’t have any of my own.  But my absentee neighbor had a huge one and it was blocking my perfect view.  I certainly didn’t want to look at that thing all summer, and I’ve been trying to help him figure out how he could get help, since he lives so far away, to burn it.

The weather’s been warm and the snow is gone.  But several nights ago we had a light dusting and it was a cold, high humidity day.  With the ground still frozen and the wind low, here was our chance.

I’ve been learning a lot from my friend G. about fire and burning.  We’ve burned a lot of brush piles together from my upper cabin area, piles of beetle killed and infested pines.  But this pile was humongous, at least 75′ x 30′ x 12′ high!  There were lots of big logs as well as brush in there.  It was dry and it was going to alight easily.

We started as the sun was going down.  With the cooler temperature and higher humidity, and less chance of wind, the evening is the best time for a burn like this.  G.  began by lighting the pile from 4 or 5 different sides and directions.  Pretty soon both ends came together and, here’s the video…

I put the dog at the end for reference.  By the way, I was filming from that far back because it was hot.  ‘Hotter than hell’ as they say.

Soon night came.  We were out there for hours.  I laid down and watched the sparks rise high against the night sky.  Fire whorls burst out in small areas, like white hot tornadoes, reminding me of a witches’ brew.

The fire as night fell quickly. The stars came out. See person on right side for scale.

I could see the fire from my bedroom window.  It’s not too far from my house.  Periodically during the night I’d awaken and look out the window.  Always it was burning, burning. That night I had the funniest dream:    While in the mountains, someone said “haven’t you read the news”.  I hadn’t.  “There’s been an economic meltdown and fires are burning all over the city.”  Meltdown, fire, economy…funny connections.

By morning it had burned down and we chunked the pile together with a loader.  It had been a fantastic night.

Fun's over.

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One Response

  1. Nothing like a good bonfire. Should have torched it midnight on the equinox!

    Like

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