Ranger Diary: Fire Assignment


DAY FIVE: August 26, 2013
Topic of the Day: Wind

Back to the ridge overlooking the High Lake Fire. No smoke showing when we arrive. I settle in to watch the wind after tying streamers of orange flagging to tree limbs. These are held more or less horizontal all day as the buffeting wind swings through the south to southwest quadrant.

Air is fluid, and moves over topography in much the same way as water. It flows over and around obstacles (such as mountains), speeds up when there is no resistance, eddies and swirls in currents. From my vantage point, I see trees moving below me and watch as the wind finds alignment with the long valley where the fire is smoldering. This bowl has been sheltered from most winds, but today moving air swishes through. When smoke emerges through the green canopy, the wind grabs it and drags it uphill, across the slope then releases it to drift.

Up on the ridge, I watch a succession of cumulus clouds march to the northeast, deeper into the Blues and toward Idaho. Wind smacks my back, flutters my shirt sleeves. It squeals through the impeller on my wind meter, and the wind speed number goes up to 16, 20. I feel my lips chapping, the skin over my cheekbones and chin heats and reddens. Still I squint at the fire, whooping when black smoke erupts and orange flames climb a subalpine fir. One torch, another torch, then the fire drops to the ground to smoke with gusto.

This fire is alive and harming nothing. Except perhaps the stomach linings and brains of local land managers who imagine the worst.

Fire is what it is.

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