Following Through

South Cle Elum Ridge Fire, 8-19-14
South Cle Elum Ridge Fire, 8-19-14

This fire’s growth was slowed by a half inch of rain early last week. It will take more than that to completely extinguish it. Lots of work followed the rain. Firefighters completed a perimeter line around it and started mopping up the edges. Any remaining fire is in the interior, where it continues to smolder through downed wood and duff on top of the soil. Weather conditions have gotten warmer, drier, windier. Yesterday they pulled out miles of fire hose. I worked with a crew to rehab dozer lines–smoothing out berms, installing waterbars to check erosion, tossing slash across the disturbed slopes to catch soil. They spoke to me in their northern Arizona rez accent and in Apache to each other. Lots of laughing and hard work. The men supervising our tasks are from the deep South–Florida, Mississippi. They speak slowly and politely and are stunned by our mountainous terrain. We Northwesterners are easy-going and independent. An interesting mix of voices over the fire radio frequencies.

Summer has slipped into its later phase. Warm days, cool nights, the angle of the sun changing. Orion on the horizon at dark. Chipmunks and ground squirrels are active in the woods, scampering around looking for food and putting on weight. Some of them have grown accustomed to firefighters and boldy approach anyone in green pants and yellow shirt. Shiny eyes, curiosity, a flick of the tail and they skitter away. A line from Disney’s “Bambi” popped into my head–Bambi asks his mother why they should run and hide. “Because man is in the forest,” she replies.

A few women are in the forest too, walking lightly and making notes about what needs to be put back the way it was before the fire. Chipmunks and deer have nothing to fear.

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