From a softball game/barbecue to fighting a wild fire, Sunday afternoons can offer a variety of opportunities for a community to demonstrate just how much of a community it really is. Though folks up here on the ridge have been playing softball on Sunday afternoons since 1982, fighting fires as a unit is a relatively recent thing.
Timing is everything as they say, because when a wildfire broke out Sunday afternoon, the local volunteer fire department was up to the challenge. It was able to deploy more than fifteen volunteers to the site, and contain the fire to one acre, having it under control before either the Laytonville Volunteer unit or the Leggett Cal Fire unit, arrived.
It has occurred to me that practically every major wild fire began as something that could have been contained in a similar manner, had it been spotted quickly enough, and had personnel been able to get there. Those are two components that must be in place. Because the blaze was spotted quickly, it became as critically important that the response-time be equally fast.
There have been many training sessions for Bell Springs Voluntary Firefighters, there has been a certain amount of equipment made available, there is a water tender, with a capacity of 1,200 gallons of water, and there is a determination to not sit around waiting for someone else to come in and solve our problems.
I say “our” problems; I refer to the problems of the community. I personally do not have a hand in the firefighting work. When the volunteer unit was assembled, not that long ago, I assessed my contributions, and compared them to my liabilities, and decided to let valor take a back seat to discretion. I have one surgically repaired knee, one surgically reconstructed shoulder, and a tendency to fall often and hard. The way I view it, is the same way army strategists view it.
Disabling booby traps are intended to do just that: disable and not kill. By hurting someone, two additional soldiers are required to move the injured one to safety. If I go out to fight a fire, and end up hurting myself, any good I might have done, will be surpassed by the harm of needing two volunteers to help me to safety. I am not a pessimist, so much as a realist. The ridge is rolling hills, clusters of manzanita, rocky ravines, and treacherous footing, every step of the way.
I ought to know, because I’ve owned my twenty acres for 37 years now, and have lived up here for the past 31 of them. I have seen at varying distances, at least a dozen wildfires during this period, any of which could have turned on us, through different circumstances, and caused us to bail out.
Sunday’s blaze was started by a vehicle which had driven into our area, after a long haul, and had been imprudently parked in tall, dry grass. The fire was spotted quickly and the call to 911 went out, whereupon the Bell Springs Volunteer unit was contacted. The blaze was located on an off-road, almost five miles up Bell Springs Road. The time required for either of the official units to converge on the scene was long enough for the home-grown unit to have already gotten a handle on the blaze.
That’s not to say that the town units are not needed nor welcome. Most of those other blazes, to which I just alluded, were handled by those afore-mentioned town-units. There’s a lot of history there. Heck, Laytonville’s unit went out of its way to conduct a fire training, geared specifically to the volunteer unit from up here on the ridge. There is a certain amount of common sense to that approach. Now both sides have gained from the experience. As I said, had our home-grown locals not been available, I am confident that other forces would have conducted themselves in the same exemplary fashion, as they have so many times before.
Now, though, there is a new kid on the block, one who knows about the advantages of providing a quick strike to an incident. Because Laytonville’s fire unit had already had the fore-sight to warn us that all fire-fighting forces were stretched out, and that we should be on high-alert, our volunteers were equipped and ready to accept the challenge. The result was Sunday’s victory, and the heroes are those who were prepared.