Fire on Sag Lake Trail

     How many headlines must I write with that four letter F word? The wind blew all day and night on Thursday and continued into Friday.  A Red Flag Warning was issued Friday morning and the fire danger rating went up to Extreme.  This elevated fire danger did nothing to alleviate my already elevated stress level. 

     Sometimes I wish I knew nothing about wildfires or fire condtions.  While the wind whipped today I thought about my sprinkler system not being primed and ready to go.  I remembered how it was one of the last systems to get started in May of 2007 when the Ham Lake Fire started because Mike and I were too busy working as volunteer firefighters.  I silently vowed to myself that I would not let that happen again and that I would make sure our place was safe if we were ever in that position again.

     Our neighbor Michael Valentini takes care of our fire sprinklers and he was over at our house on Thursday morning.  He was telling us how his work crews were going to start getting sprinkler systems ready for the season on Monday morning.  I told him he should get ours ready that day because I was nervous about the high fire danger.  Both he and Mike chuckled and said we’d be fine until Monday.

     Last night while cooking dinner the power started cutting in and out.  That sometimes happens when the wind blows and a tree falls on a power line somewhere.  It surges and sometimes it stays on but more often we lose electricity completely.  We had Chelsea, Tara and Kelly over for dinner and then started Game Night.  In the middle of Apples to Apples we heard a beeping that sounded like a car alarm.  Chelsea and Tara went to the window to see what was going on and discovered a woman panicking in our parking lot.

     FIRE! I heard that word and the name Fitzgerald and knew we were in trouble.  Their house is just two doors down and less than 1/4 of a mile away.  Mike was out of the house before I even knew if it was a house or wildfire but I grabbed my gear and was headed to my car and spotted his tail lights leaving the driveway.  Kelly came out the door and said Mike had told him to come with me to Fitzgeralds but I made an executive decision and asked him to get our sprinkler system going first and then come.

     I drove my Subaru over to the neighbors and saw smoke on the hillside, luckily it was not their cabin.  There was a blackened area with some logs and stumps burning as well as other small fuel sources with flames.  I grabbed a shovel and got to work smashing out small flames and shoveling down to the bare rock beneath the duff.  It wasn’t too long before Mike arrived with our fire truck and we were able to spray some water around the edges to prevent the fire from growing. 

     Another fire truck wasn’t far behind and within a few minutes the fire was no longer a threat.  I handed my hose over to a fellow GTVFD member and went home leaving others in charge.  Relief swept over me as well as a number of other feelings.  Panic, fear and a sense of loss turned in my stomach as I vividly recalled the hell of the Ham Lake Fire.  The smell of smoke was on my clothes, black soot on my shoes and fire on my brain. 

     The power came back on after being out for a little over three hours.  I had hoped I would feel better with power and phones up and running once again.  But I didn’t really.  That four letter word haunted me and continues to haunt me. I catch myself holding my breath, I feel the tension in my stomach and I have to tell myself to let my shoulders lessen their tight grip on my neck.  I check the forecast and see warm, sunny days through at least Tuesday with no chance of precipitation.  I fret and I worry, I worry and fret. 

     Thanks to Kelly my sprinkler system is ready.  I hope I won’t need it.