Remembering the Gorda-Rat Creek Fire, Pt. 2

(Continued from last Saturday…)

“I can’t remember all of those that helped in the following days but Greg Byrne and his son Airic, TJ, JC, Jim Cook, PB Rivers, Tall Cliff Anderson, Rob Stonecipher, Saj all come to mind. We didn’t have much as far as tools at first, just a few chain saws and weedeater besides the 125 gallons of water, pump and a couple of hundred feet of 1″ hose. A fire camp was set up at Sand Dollar and the Pacific Valley School was serving meals. I was having lunch with Greg Byrne when his son came up to us and said,” Hey guys, I talked to a fireman across the street and he said we could check out anything we needed to fight fire”.—Airic was 10 or 12 years of age but we decided to check it out.——We went over and acted like we did this all the time, identifying ourselves as the South Coast Volunteers and proceeded to make out a wish list. Everything we asked for was available and given to us on the spot with only a signature required. Little Airic had earned our respect for sure!

We went up to MJ’s place on top of Willow and joined with the Texas Hot Shots who were down in Spruce trying to keep the fire from crossing to the North side.  Our folks and their’s combined to make a successful stop with the Borate bomber dropping its load on us two different times. We came out of Spruce, colored with the fire retardant and felt like heroes! Up at MJ’s there were three full size city fire trucks in the yard. The hot shots had told us they could now hold the creek bed and we should all go take a well deserved break. We agreed and went over to Dave and Mariska Harris’s place for a hot meal, showers and some cold beer.—-I woke up at dawn and jumped on my motorcycle and went over to MJ’s place. The smoke was so thick you couldn’t see but 20 to 30 yards. When I got to the yard and I saw that the fire trucks were gone, in fact the yard was empty. I started down the road to the pool and ran into a wall of flame coming up the hill. I raced back to MJ’s and woke him up (he had taken a couple of sleeping pills the night before) yelling that the fire was coming, and quick!!   I drove back to David’s and woke everyone and soon we were out in the woods trying to establish a fire line below MJ’s without even having our first cup of coffee. The terrain was not too steep and was covered in good size pine and smaller madrone and manzanita. We started dropping pines with no sense of order and would probably have gotten someone hurt when we heard the clank clank of a big tracked machine coming our way.   A D-9 came to our rescue and pushed those little pines over creating a fire line that would have taken us hours, in a matter of minutes.—–We found out later that the Rat fire had Blown Up in the middle of the night and our Forest Service and Fire Fighter guys had been pulled off the Gorda fire to go fight the Rat. I also learned that the individual fire fighter might as well be in the Army in the fact that they have to obey orders from their superiors leading me to never trust what they might say, no matter how much they might mean it! —-No shame, no blame,—just the way it is!” (To be continued next Saturday…)