Friday, August 10, 2012

We're burning up again :/

"A series of thunder storms passed through Lassen Volcanic National Park and the neighboring region. These storms produced a number of lightning strikes which ignited several small fires in the area. The Park is currently suppressing the Reading Fire. The Fire started on July 23 and is located at 7100 feet in elevation approximately one mile northeast of Paradise Meadows between the Terrace Lake and Paradise Meadow Trails."

( Info taken from the Park site. Click on this link for daily updates: or go to the InciWeb site ..also found on that NPS link)

Back in the day, summer thunder showers were usually exciting and wet. Remember all those summers, when you kids were little, how we all loved to stand under the safety of our porch and thrill to the lightening flashes, booming thunder, and pouring rain? Buckets and buckets of rain. We'd see the flash, then count til the thunder rolled to judge how far away the lightening was.

Occasionally there'd be a strike that would create a bit of excitement with a small spot fire but either the rain or a helicopter or hand crew attack would quickly extinguish it. Seldom was there the devastation that now seems to plague our forests continually. Now every summer we hold our breaths watching, wondering, waiting for the start of the raging inferno that we know is coming.

This current fire is another one of those tragic dry-lightening storm-produced blazes. For a while it crept harmlessly along the forest floor in Lassen burning the underbrush & generally doing an efficient 'clean-up' of small fuels... something that's actually helpful to the eco-system of the woods. Unfortunately it wasn't contained, got into heavy fuel, and quickly got out of hand within a few days.

Here's what we could see from the side yard 4 days ago on Monday evening (Aug 6th) as things had gotten severely out of hand:

Papa had arrived home 2 hrs late, since his way back to the maintenance yard had been blocked when the fire jumped the road up by the Devastated Area. He had to re-route and go up over the Peak, down, around, and over to Mineral, Manton, & Shingletown to get back to headquarters on the Manzanita side.

That band of smoke just got heavier and more oppressive until it stretched clear across the sky as far to the North as we could see.

As usual, we need to keep the house opened up all night in order not to swelter too badly from the hot summer days in this old uninsulated house (it's been at and near 100° all week). The first night, however, we awakened at 4am as the house began to fill with the settling smoke. This is what we found as the dawn broke; you can't even see to the rim:

The daylight has that eerie, not-normal, yellow glow to it:

No more beautiful morning views of Sugar Loaf & West Prospect to the South :(

By Wednesday evening the heat of the day had been so intense we couldn't open up for cooling breezes until after 8pm, and the intensity of the fire increased the drifting, settling smoke causing us to shut down just before 1am. That's the norm now. Doesn't allow for much change in temperatures in the house and BOY HOWDY does it get stifling by 8pm-open-up-time!

Papa & I drove to Susanville yesterday to get out of the horrid smoke. On the way home, just at the Old Station overlook coming down 44, we were dismayed to see the fire had grown and was over at the base of West Prospect Peak.

Last night there was a community meeting held by the Park Superintendent to discuss what's going on. We're really hoping that with enough input and hindsight these small 'helpful' fires will be dealt with differently in the future. With our dryer and more dangerous climate & environment changes in the past decade the National Park fire management plans need to be reassessed and dealt with in a more aggressive way.

That's our 2¢ worth at any rate...

As of today more than 9,000 acres have burned, but, since it is now on USFS land, there will be more varied & energetic attacks. There are 27 hand crews, 19 engines, 4 helicopters, 763 fire people involved, and an estimated cost-to-date of $1,500,000. And, it is only 5% contained. Ouch.

Peggie called this morning to tell me I'd better not come out to help in the yard today since the smoke was laying even thicker out at their place. They could see the flames last night from their house.

When he got to work today Papa learned that all his campgrounds were evacuated & that he was temporarily reassigned to work up at Butte Lake. The Park highway is closed at Crags Campground clear to Summit Lake. Portions of the Pacific Crest trail are closed. Forest Service roads & trails on the east side of Hwy 44/89, clear from Old Station to the Park, are closed.

Tonight, when Papa returned home from a meeting in Burney, he told me to take a flashlight out to the woodpile and look at the sky. It was orange and glowing in the south. I came back in just as Eli called on his cell phone saying they were all up at the Hat Creek Rim Overlook watching their Park burn. He was pretty sad. Not sure if the group got any night-shots, but if they did I'll do an update with some more pictures.

And for now that's all the news from (literally) Lake Woebegone...


  1. Reading this breaks my heart! Amazing photo journalism though. I'll keep and eye on the link. I love the little picture thing for my birthday :) Hope the fires get out soon and you can go back to blue skies and clean mountain air :)

    1. Ya, pretty devastating current event. Besides the heat, just the emotional impact alone is making it hard to sleep. It is such a huge loss :_(

      That vintage picture I put up in honor of your Birthday soo reminds me of you and your wheelbarrow of flowers back when you were little. Just HAD to post it!