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First Fire

I began worrying seriously about catastrophic forest fire in June 2013. That summer the Tres Lagunas Fire was started by a downed electric-coop power line when a 150 foot tall dead tree was blown into power lines by high winds. That fire burned more than 10,000 acres and seemed devastating at the time. With extreme drought conditions persisting for most of the year throughout the previous winter and Independence Day coming soon after that fire started, I began fretting a lot about forest fire which could wipe out the homestead. Fortunately it finally rained in the area on July 4th and no one started a forest fire with their damned home fireworks displays.

Then in August I was watching a dry lightning storm hammering upper reaches of the canyon just to the west while I was making first batches of chokecherry jelly and saw a tree struck by a fat bolt of blue-white light start smoking in the not so faraway distance. My heart sank but I tried not to panic. It had been raining a good deal recently, enough to fill the big puddle up on the county road I liked to think of as my moat because it was long and deep enough to discourage most people from attempting to drive across it. I hoped the fire would go out on its own, but it didn't.

Smoke from the burning tree increased by the minute and I caught glimpses of flame at its crown.

So I called the local fire department and reported what I was seeing. They sent out a crew.

They hiked about a mile to get to the tree and immediately began cutting it down, their chainsaw growling on for a long while. It must have been a large-diameter tree. Then it started to fall.

I could hear the fire crew continue working to put out the burning parts of the tree for a couple more hours before they returned to report it was no longer a hazard. I thanked them and gave them each a jar of jelly. I'd have given them a large money donation if I hadn't been so tapped out at the time, very grateful they had worked so hard to avert disaster.

Nine years later the forest for miles in every direction is dead and charred, never to recover within my remaining years of life, a hazardous wasteland prone to flooding and landslide risk. Rebuilding there may not be feasible, which means the U.S. Government must buy me a new parcel of land of similar quality. I wonder how hard it's going to be to make them do that.

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