Monday, May 08, 2017

fire in the hole

Christy hates smoke.

She comes by it honestly. Darrel and Christy lived on a small ranch on the outskirts of Bend for over thirty years. Even though they were within walking distance of town, their most dangerous adversary was fire. Forest fires.

On several of my visits, we would be running errands in Bend when Christy would look up and see smoke on the horizon in the general direction of their place. Whatever we were doing, we would head back to the house just in case we needed to defend the property from a flaming invasion.

The risk was real. Groves of ponderosa pine surrounded the house and outbuildings. Just over the ridge in back of their place was a pine forest. If a fire jumped the ridge, we would have either gone into fire-break mode -- or become fleeing refugees.

During Christy's visits to my area of Mexico, she was initially unnerved by the number of brush fires. Some in the wild. Others in town.

Darrel reassured her that brush fires around Barra tend to die out before they burn very far. She was not certain of that explanation. Especially when she saw the char marks on a number of concrete walls.

And she was right to be wary. A brush fire near the laguna in Villa Obregon recently got away and threatened some local businesses before our local fire brigade showed up with their water truck to bring it back under control.

When Gary and Joyce took me to the Manzanillo airport on Saturday, we watched a brush fire burn the full slope of two steep hills near the highway. I still do not know if that was an intentional burn.

Today, while I was out on a walk in Bend, I noticed a column of smoke rising just beyond the ridge of Darrel and Christy's former ranch. When I got back to the house, I told them about the fire, and off we headed in their SUV to chase a story.

It turned out it was a controlled burn by the Forest Service. To burn off anything combustible before the fire season begins -- and before an uncontrolled burn took advantage of the kindling.

There was a small army of firefighters controlling the burn where it backed up to homes. Even knowing there was a good deal of control on the fire, it was like watching a lion tamer work with big cats.

After all, fire is every bit as dangerous -- and as unpredictable -- as a wild animal. The control is an illusion. At any moment, the fire could have turned into the very thing the burners were attempting to avoid. Paul Ryan must feel the same way these days.

As for me, it was a good reminder how fragile the circumstances of our lives are. I do not live with the danger of fire in my part of Mexico. But I do have scorpions, earthquakes, hurricanes, and even one very live volcano.

But that is what makes getting out of bed each day worthwhile.

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