There’s been a lot of smoke around my place lately along with some falling ash. They tell me I’m in a level 1 evacuation area, and I don’t s’pose that’s a big deal, although some neighbors seem agitated.
Not too far from me are folks in level 2, and slightly farther are level 3ers. The smoke isn’t all that bad except first thing in the morning. This time of the year I sleep with windows open, and as I start to stir before fully wakening I smell it. It smells different from an early-morning campfire. It says something isn’t quite right.
The usual gab with my neighbors is different now. All talk is about the fire and evac levels. We still joke and make light of the seriousness of it, but I detect fear in some talk. Neighbor John spent his working years fighting forest fires all across the western U.S. If there’s a question about fires, John knows the answer.
Riding my bike down our quiet, dead-end street a couple mornings ago, I passed John, garden hose in hand giving his dog a shower, in his side yard. I got a whiff of skunk and the picture became clear. I turned around in the road and came back up a ways and yelled over at him, “Hey, John, she got into a skunk last night, eh?”
“Yeah, but not too bad this time,” he said.
That was that and talk switched quickly to fire. As a former incident commander, John described the difficulties of fighting a fire like we had near us. He was ready and had hoses strung across his two-and-a-half acres.
“I’m staying,” he said. “You can fight a lot of fire with a garden hose.”
I was sure we would lose power during a fire.
“My generator will kick on, and I’ve got a lot of water pressure. You drag your hose over the guest house and hook to that spigot,” he told me.
I don’t really see this happening but, OK, if John is staying, I’m staying. Before long another neighbor came down the road from town. She stopped and joined the talk. She told about the billowing clouds of smoke she could see from town that loomed up over Onion Mountain to the west. John told her not to worry until those ashes that hit your arm start to burn, and on a worry scale of 1 to 10 we are a “2.” I don’t think he calmed her much. She was in high anxiety.
Nina is a natural born Frady Cat. The rustle of a Sunday morning newspaper can put her in four-paw drive and her feet rotate in a blur on our slick, wood floor until she can traction out to the back bedroom. She spends most time outdoors, and that’s where she was relaxing the other day when I heard the helicopter. The big, bucket-dragging choppers come low, fast and loud. Nina was quickly confused. She started to go under the deck, turned, went around the corner of the house, got under the pickup for a second. Nina can really run. She raced behind the wood piles, in front of the shop and landed under the low, flat-bed trailer where she spent the next couple of hours.
The firefighters here are really, really good. I expect someday to see Nina calmly patrolling her grounds or lying in the morning sun, and maybe the bluejays will come back and eat peanuts again.
Kelly Greene lives 12 miles west of Grants Pass.
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