Sunday, August 19, 2012

Prayin' fer rain :/

...things were looking up. Between the fire-fighting efforts and a bit of a break with higher humidity (gives a lower ignition point to the forest flotsam & jetsam), the situation was getting better. Day time temperatures had dropped to under a hundred degrees and the near-constant smoke was thinning.

Back-burning up on West Prospect had been proving successful. We watched one of those operations blazing late last Sunday night (Aug 12th) from the fence line by the chicken coop. It was horrific to watch as trees would light up like a giant's torch.

A couple days later Ray told me they switched to doing them after midnight when the general Old Station citizenry were most likely a-bed and wouldn't be quite so freaked by the sight.

*  It was much more up-close-and-personal than my camera can capture *

By Wednesday (Aug 15th) the temperatures were starting to cool a tad. Still, the smoke-filled valley made the daylight unnaturally dim. This next picture was taken at 10 am that morning:

The Park & USFS's Reading Fire was getting close to 50% contained. People at fire camp were quite optimistic. So now we come to the next big event.

Yesterday morning (Saturday, Aug 18th), in the wee hours, a brief storm came through the area, cooling it down even more & letting the scent of a light rain make the air a bit sweeter to breathe. Tragically it also brought more lightning strikes.

Around 2:30 pm it suddenly got very dark here. Dark like a rainy afternoon, but this also had that weird yellow-orange light to it. I ran outside to see what was up. I could see no close-range indication of fire, just a huge layer of smoke blotting out the sun and ashes coming down like tiny snowflakes.

When Papa got home from work I learned there was a fire down near Manton heading towards Shingletown! We kept checking for updates online. This new threat, the Ponderosa Fire, in a matter of hours, blew up from 500 acres to several thousand. Here is a picture from the news site, taken from down in the valley on the Manton side, looking back up at the towering, billowing smoke:

Last evening, after supper, I went into the kitchen to tidy up. Someone, somehow, had spilled pepper flakes all over the counter under the window. Wait a minute... that's not pepper.. it's ash! And the white window sills are speckled with it as well! You can see charred pine needle particles mixed among the gray ash. Crazy!

When we got up this morning it looked like there had been a light sprinkling of pepper-infused snow dusted all over everything.

As of today (Sunday the 19th) the fire has burned 12,000 acres, remains zero percent contained, and is spreading north-northeast from the Manton area toward the communities of Shingletown and Viola. 

The ash continues to come down and the day has turned all yellow-y again. That's not an over-exposed picture you see, it's the actual-factual real color:

The boys, with Caitlyn & Dana, needed to get to Redding today for supplies but couldn't go west on Hwy 44 from Manzanita. They had to come all the way around and go down by way of 299. There was a clear spell from smoke when they stopped by this morning. Eli came out to see me in the garden & I snapped a picture of him from where I was picking cucumbers...

 ...just before he ran off to the valley:

It was an amazing moment having blue skies above.

Cal Fire says there are 3,000 homes, 20 commercial buildings, and 300 outbuildings threatened. It has destroyed at least 7 homes. There are mandatory evacuations in and around the Shingletown area & Hwy 44 is closed from the Lake McCumber road up to Viola. I guess it comes as no surprise that Shasta County has declared a state of emergency. This is a map of the fire's current anticipated path:

Papa just called from work to say the smoke is so thick they can't see more than a quarter mile. Only one of his crew & his boss showed up today. Being that they're all from Shingletown that was pretty much expected; they're busy protecting their homes or evacuating.

Wild, wild times. So ya... PRAY FOR RAIN!

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