Wednesday, August 28, 2013

And On the 12th Day...

For 12 days the Rim Fire has burned.  Daily routines for everyone in Tuolumne county have been changed.  Morning routines include checking the updates from the incident managers to see if evacuation orders have changed, seeing what the latest perimeter map looks like, and assessing the air quality based on how much haze and how much discernible orange and red shows in the sunlight.

The southwest corner of the perimeter is of specific concern for us.  While the perimeter lines include areas where lines have been cut and backfire operations have been conducted, the potential for the fire to jump the lines remains.  The southwest perimeter runs along a ridge line leading into a river canyon that runs to the north.  Tuolumne City is along the west edge of that canyon, with Soulsbyville, Twain Harte, Mi Wuk, Sugar Pine, and Long Barn in the path.  To the south, the canyon runs to Don Pedro reservoir, which would put Jamestown and Sonora at larger risk.

The behavior history of the Rim Fire, from my perspective, is to run wildly up river canyons, spread by spotting, crowning (tree top to tree top), and breaking over lines.  The number of firefighters increases daily and is likely to soon equal the population of the largest city in Tuolumne county (Sonora, 4,992).  Containment is slow in coming, and the local communities celebrate every single digit percentage of increase, particularly since we experienced days of decrease earlier in the history of this burn.

It has become unusual to go anywhere in the area without coming across fire rigs from the various agencies who have come to help.  Local businesses are coming together to host dinners for the fire crews.  Volunteers are flooding to local agencies donating their time as well as food and clothing for evacuees.  Home baked goods often make their way to the fire crews in the parking lots of the local stores.

Air traffic has increased significantly, and all the planes and helicopters are fire management resources.   We were used to the occasional CAL FIRE flight leaving the base at Columbia.  DC10's and C130 sightings used to be rare.  They are all considered to be the friendly fireflies of our summer.

Students, out of school due to county wide closures, have taken to decorating the area with home made signs, thanking the firefighters for their selfless work.  The more the fire rages, the more the community pulls together.  Recovery planning is in it's infancy, but therein lies the hope of our community and our next course of action.

One day the Rim Fire will be out.  We have a forest to replant.

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