Saturday, September 3, 2011

Forest Fires, Bears and Biking

So, I get a phone call from my husband at 3pm or so on Thursday afternoon while I'm at work.

"I think we might get burned out."

Pardon me?

"There's smoke so thick here in town, I can't see any other houses around us. Went to go look and everything around Falkland Ranch is on fire."


Choppers shuttling from the Salmon River to dump water on the fire.

Are you grabbing a get-away kit?

"I have the dogs. What else would I need?"

Hmm. That about sums it up. Maybe my laptop. And my passport - fire or no fire, I'm still going to visit Claudia in October!

Turns out a major windstorm blowing from the west through the valley dropped a tree on a transmission line, triggering a fire in optimum conditions: tinder and overgrown undercover, +30C temperatures for two weeks with no precip, high winds & steep terrain.

The fire west of town, around 7 pm.

The fire was immediately west of Falkland. Once the water bombers and Initial Attack crews were on the scene, the town wasn't in serious danger.

Bomber dumping fire retardant onto the fire - Daniel Hayduk photo

I used to drive wildfire fighters out to fire lines in northern Alberta. I lived in an area prone to forest fires for 25 years. We had careless neighbours who scared us with their land-clearing burning practices, and came close to disaster when a spring burn we and neighbours conducted led to a ground fire that travelled into an overgrown road allowance, burst into fire two weeks after the initial burn and moved rapidly towards our homestead.

I have never truly overcome my primordial fear of fire.

Falkland Fire Department worked on the fire -
Daniel Hayduk photo

There are still hot spots smoldering away. Crews will be there for several days yet I imagine, digging them out.

Daniel Hayduk photo

In other news:

Last weekend Bryan and I went to Nakusp to visit friend David, who was attending an event involving adventure touring motorcyclists. It turned into our own little adventure tour.

As usual, Bryan had the Girls in their kennel on the back of the Triumph (I'll have to get a photo of that some day). It was early afternoon before we left home, so around 4 pm or so when we stopped at Gold Panner Campground east of Cherryville for an iced tea.

Further on down the highway, about 15 km or so east of the Monashee summit, Bryan discovered his back tire was going flat! Something in the gravelled parking area must have punctured the tire.

It was getting late, we were a long way from anything. After a discussion, he took my bike and headed to Nakusp, intending to get help from David.

Socket, Hannah and I waited at the pull-out area alongside the highway.

It was warm but we were in the shade ... along with a healthy population of mosquitoes, black flies and no-see-ums. We walked, we talked, they snoozed in the kennel and I worked puzzles in the little sudoku book I take on road trips.

Twilight moved in. The cows grazing along the transmission line cutline called to their calves.

I tried to expunge the brain cootie that had been haunting me all day - Dean Martin singing "That's Amore." It was playing on the radio when I drove into work early that morning and stuck in firmly for a long visit.

I used to like watching ol' Deano on his television show but can't say I was all that happy about him settling down with his martini and cigarette in my brain. And of course the more you try to not think about something, the more you do.

And then the neighbourhood black bear made his/her presence known, crashing around in the bush down the embankment. Seeing as I was already a bit grouchy what with Dean Martin haunting me and various voracious insects eating me, this was the last straw.

I cussed out that bear. Everyone knows black bears have a low tolerance for profanity. The noise paused; I could hear ursine mental gears shifting. The noise resumed and I swore again, louder and cruder. The noise stopped. I can only assume the bear was shocked and dismayed at my behaviour, because shortly thereafter my knight in a black pick-up arrived.

It was well and truly dark when we got to the Needles ferry, past hope of a meal at the hotel when we arrived in Nakusp at 10 pm.

Bryan had acquired a room in the attic of the Leland Hotel. Now there's an experience. I'd been in rooms on every floor of that venerable old structure except the attic. Thank goodness for mornings at the gym because that third and last flight of stairs is STEEP. Still, the old hotel is 114 years old so quirks should be expected.

Breakfast with David and friends was a nice leisurely affair. Wish we could have had more time but they were off for Calgary as soon as they were satisfied we'd be OK.

Bryan found a rescue wagon through AMA and once again in just over a year, I found myself riding my motorcycle behind a minivan rescuing my husband from a road incident - different bike, different country, but still .......

We got back to the abandoned motorcycle. Bryan repaired the tire and filled it from the compressed air tank the road assistant guy brought along. He went back to Nakusp, we returned to Falkland.

You'll notice there are no photos of the Nakusp ride.

Lessons learned:

1. Always carry the tire plug kit on the bike. It doesn't do much good in the garage 200 km away.

2. Jack Russells have the potential to choke a bear, discouraging further attack, but only to be used in extreme emergency. Growling Jack Russells are less useful.


Apparently there is nothing else to be learned from this experience.

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