Last Saturday was one of those days. It started out innocently enough though.
Take a shower.
Feed the dog.
Watch my kid play baseball in sweltering heat.
Cover a big brush fire.
Bake at the Harvest Fair Gala.
Really, just another day at the office.
That brush fire in Bodega went from bad to ugly when Bodega volunteer firefighter Ben Hakala came in to contact with downed power lines resulting in critical injuries. From recent reports, he seems to be doing better. That’s good.
Brush fires can be insidious. Even though the Bodega fire was only 100 acres, it had makings of a seriously destructive fire. The saving grace was a lack of wind and the sheer amount of firefighting resources thrown at it. Hampering the firefighting efforts were steep draws lined with eucalyptus, the Roman Candle of the wildland fire world. Eucalyptus smell great after a rain, but when they catch fire, watch out.
As one stand would ignite, eucalyptus leaves would float up and out and light brush and other flammable vegetation on fire, spotting willy nilly.
Covering a brush fire has it’s own logistical pitfalls. The #1 pitfall is the danger. Emergency personnel and photographers are some of the very few people I know who run in to a disaster instead of running away. Here at the PD, each photog is equipped with what is needed to cover such an event. Helmet, nomex pants, shirts and neck shroud, goggles, boots, fire shelters and gloves. We’ve been trained several times by Cal Fire personnel in how to deploy a fire shelter and what to watch for… terrain, fuel loading, wind, temperature, escape routes etc. We’re not professional firefighters, but we like to pad our human existence with the proper safety gear.
I’m quite sure that each one of us never want to get to close as to use a fire shelter.
The traffic getting to Bodega was awful. Highway 12 was at a standstill from Santa Rosa to Sebastopol, so I took the back way. Still, the bad driver syndrome was apparent with more eyes on the fire than road.
Several motorists attempted to talk their way through a roadblock near the fire. The CHP was having none of that. You have to wonder sometimes.
My car was covered with phos-chek, goo that is dropped from airtankers to filibuster advance of the fire. I got weird looks on the way back to Santa Rosa.
After that adventure, it was off to the Harvest Fair awards gala. Large fans were set-up to cool the crowd. It was natural to hang out near the fans to get photos. It was hair raising!