The clarity of wildfire Possum Kingdom 22 APR 11

Firefighters loading bulldozer for the run to Palo Pinto, Texas, when it was ordered evacuated.

I have resided mostly in Texas all of my life and when young I do not remember wildfire. For some reason pastures and forests in Texas have changed, and within the last ten years in south Palo Pinto County and north Erath County, fires have erupted and destroyed trees, wildlife, livestock, pastures, firemen and innocents.

By my count, around Strawn, Mingus and Gordon, Texas, three large wildfire outbreaks have occurred within the last ten years. On two occasions, I have hitched trailers to move horses off of our ranch and have prepared checklists for evacuation. At night, the mountainsides appear to have torches marching down to our pastures to kill and maim the living. The next morning, trees smolder on the slopes, the torches of the night before.

Fire brings a clarity to decision-making: there’s no ambiguity about whether to do one chore or another, read one book or the other or how to spend one’s day at work or on the ranch. You don’t worry about combing your hair or washing your face.

You fight the fire. You wait. Or, you evacuate. Forget muddling around and killing time for your home, livestock or grassland may not exist this time tomorrow. And, neither may wildlife you have observed. Only fishes in cow tanks will make it through the day if they are not sucked up by helicopters filling their water tanks.

Within this last week, the Possum Kingdom Complex Fire came within seven miles of our place before the night fell and winds died. Then the next day, the winds shifted and carried the flames northward. A shift in wind the day after that and Palo Pinto was ordered to evacuate, the town where we have our house insurance and our branch bank.

The clarity of wildfire is the clarity of life and death. Today you are here, but tomorrow all you possess and cherish may be gone. Non-existence may be sooner rather than later. That much is clear.

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12 Comments

Filed under Life Out of Balance, Wildfire

12 responses to “The clarity of wildfire Possum Kingdom 22 APR 11

  1. We tend to become complacent until we are reminded of how life can turn on a dime and all that was, is no more. Seven miles is awfully close. Even after life has calmed down a bit the loss goes on, so many acres with life in so many forms, two humans, as well. Terrible loss. We are reminded of the powerful forces within life itself, fire being chief among them.

  2. The details may differ, but the dynamics are the same. Hurricane or wildfire, incipient disaster focuses the attention and, as you say, clarifies things.

    As for muddling around, you’re right. You can’t do it. My mother tried it prior to our evacuation for hurricane Rita and the result was a lovely, fourteen hour drive from Houston to Nacogdoches, a drive that generally takes just over three hours. When Ike showed up, there was no more muddling. Experience is a great teacher.

  3. Life is a gift, and disasters has its own mind. Seven miles brings to light that what has been given can be taken. With so much loss from a fire that it leaves a trail behind of such waste and destruction that it takes another life time to recover.

    I will continue to read your updates till you and everyone around you are safe.

    Have a Blessed Easter

  4. Fire does indeed take one’s absolute attention when it is near. I’m very glad that you were not immediately affected this time. I hope the worst is over for this year, but you will probably need some drought-breaking rain before that can be true.

    Here we contend with wildfire to some extent every year and have for longer than I have been around. Our time is usually late July and August when it gets very hot and the forests become tinder dry. It is well recognized and we organize and prepare as best we can each year. It is widely mentioned right now that the general patterns and conditions this year compare to the same period just before the huge fires of 1910, but I don’t think that is very credible. The heat and moisture conditions in July and August are the predominant factors that pertain and those cannot be adequately forecast this early.

    • I do trust that you are correct and the season is not that destructive. These wildfires must be analyzed down here. If there are ways to prevent them, we should be doing it. I have started to look at our live oak trees that are near to the house and think maybe I should cull — but I don’t know enough about proper procedures. I keep the grass down in the immediate area and the pastures close to the house shredded.

  5. I self-evacuated during the Lama fire years ago…because I lived alone and couldn’t imagine going to sleep at night for fear the fire, which was near as the crow flies, would turn and head my way. I’ll never forget loading two Golden Retrievers and five house cats in my little Toyota FJ40. I barely had room for a couple of duffel bags! In the end, which is what I’d really like to say, is that it was just amazing to me to realize that all those “things” that I had dragged around for years and placed so much value in really didn’t matter. While I didn’t lose everything, I had a feeling for months of pride that I had faced losing it all and had not once felt any concern for those things. (So what has that taught me? That I can write about it but guess what, I still collect and accumulate. Ooops!)

    • Yes, of course we do, collect and accumulate. You had courage and strength and wisdom to get out. That’s quite a story, Martie. Yes, the four-legged companions come first, then we’ll worry about the books and paintings.

  6. It’s wise to be ready and in a decisive frame of mind. So far you have been lucky. It’s just not comfortable being on the edge of your seat for so long. You must be worn out!

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