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Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
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July 3, 2001     Feather River Bulletin
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July 3, 2001
 

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Tuesday, July 3, 2001 sire, Reco~ Bulletin, Progressive, Record, Reporter l I lavid Foster bringi~ted Press Writer :o Plum,I] to Feather Publishing nat thir~r's Note: The following is ward-winning series on be anP, oncow Incident in 2000. ar," Clbw is a small community way OPCed near the west end of grounds~'eather River Canyon. It did anlng reprinted with special added'iission from the author by ny com~lifornia Department of eo peolstry (CDF) in spreading air waves fall silent. Every- one listens. Many are friends with Brownell and the two firefighters huddling under aluminum fire shelters with him--Eric Zane and Scott Martinez. Brownell knows that every air tanker and helicopter on the fire is at his disposal--if only the pilots can find him. Again and again, Brownell describes his position. Air- hem. "e prevention message, craft bank overhead, but d the ts~ story is one strong ex- there's too much smoke to :he welle of why it's important to see. They drop three loads of led. Altw and respect red flag water, but each misses the res rea~. ings, said Mary Hug- mark. ing thet CDF representative in Brownell, Zane and Mar- 1er tl~ County, and a trained tinez are on their own. eir ~ghter. For what seems to them an ltar. flag warnings are is- eternity--15 minutes? 20?-- ~limbedwhen fire danger is so ex- searing gusts of wind buffet ff that the use of a chain their shelters. With only a 'ira as lawn mower, heavy thin layer of reflective mater- 1 a hal~ment or other imple- ial shielding them, the three so man~s that might create a men squeeze under two small work t~, are banned, shelters and keep talking to rot," ClUe Concow Incident is an fend off panic, their voices ~ple of what can happen raised above the tumult. taff fro~ red flag warnings are Exhausting its fuel, the fire y departed. A .fire that consumed gradually eases, and the men )f the bO acres, cost lives and shift into better positions. he sails, was started when one Martinez unfolds his own ~perati~/dual ignored the warn- shelter and takes single ccomp!~nd dec/deal to bulldoze a refuge. Brownell, sitting up ?n of his property, until now, turns over, though cknow~ purpose of the series is the road is so hot he stays on o[ the~lp interest home and handsandknees. ies s.pe~erty owners in protecting But the fire isn't done. ere m U~selves against wildfire. Lunging into brush across n t sper@ more information, con- the road, it flares up and pins said. L~Plurnas County Fire Safe them down once more. ptace ~cil representative Mike Five minutes later, the fire ~unty, Sasaux at 283-6125, or get is finaUy spent, and the men the Internet at peer out. Where brush once ~ewise.org>. grew so heavy you couldn't """---~ver the roar of the fire, see 20 feet, bare and black- . |neer Tony Brownell is ened sticks nowjut from ent . ,, .. _jtmg into his radio- Task smoking earth. ~tlms I~ . .~ .~,Te 2, emergency trafhcv The firefighters rise dizzily me o[,..e t.. . , mjuri ;rTtl ,g Du . ed over!' and stagger down the road, taan a taousand flu'e- wearing their shelters like tters have descended on tortoise shells. Capt. Jeff of corner of the Sierra Hawkins sees them coming, _hills, using bulldozers, ghosts through the smoke. cere re}e, - lo res is, tire engines and air They look scared to death, he .S_~ers to battle a blaze that thinks, nothing but big, n a slra- ,, o. grown to 200 acres, white eyes. 3 '"ldio chatter has been con- Brownell has first-degree bley, 3}t all afternoon Now the burns on his left leg. Mar- Chevy kittens need .Its and kittens have liter- A number of the cats and eep as~ ., ~taken over the Plumas kittens that come into the the r nt y Animal Shelter in shelter are in need of some oulder;C .a- love and affection, Eisenman ursaay, June 28, ani- said. Petting them and hold- oke up control officer Melissa ing them helps make them ,ehicle~n reported that they better pets for some new ,mbanlLJ o room left to receive adoptive family to enjoy, but . .~ the ~e cats. it takes time and people to do its roo~ts in all sizes, disposi- it. its r~s and colors filled the To adopt a cat or kitten, 'to restes at the small facility there is a $50 spay or neuter ing th~ door to the jail. 11 fee, plus a $10 adoption fee. e of the'bile new homes for a The $50 is refundable when animals are in big de- the animal is altered. ;r pas d, Eisenman said volun- For more information on North, to help with the number adopting a pet or volunteer- the v imals is also highly de- ing at the animal shelter, call side ~. 28,3-3673. lp to bert G. Registered Architect CA Lic. No. C23489 400-A Peninsula Drive Lake Almanor, CA 96137 (530) 596-4570 Pine VALUE TO YOUR BUILDING PROJECT mt toArchitect's m. Services Don't Cost - They Pay! Call For a FREE Initial Appointment Member American Institute of Architects 1, i$250. d mom!~f items/information leading to arrest 31. of person or persons involved in the theft of a Ford pick-up body utility railer, Honda generator, misc. tools, air rifle and air pistol, household i effects from travel trailer at 8500 Aspen Court.,. Lot #11 Dixie Valley, California Contact Mike Fitzgerald (775) 747-6281 leave message. You will remain anonymous. tinez is weak, disoriented and so dehydrated there's barely any sweat left in him. Zane's left arm has second-de- gree burns from an ember that lodged between sleeve and skin. Hawkins' crew offers them hits of oxygen and bottled wa- ter. But they can't stay here. The fire is heating up again, so both crews gun their trucks down the burned-over road, away from the fire front. Brownell is not a man giv- en to overstatement. He usu- ally scoffs at talk of fire in hu- man tertl s, as if it were alive. It's a natural process, Brownell has always said, and we just happen to be in the way. Now he's not so sure. "This fire," he tells himself, "is trying to kill somebody." Less than a mile to the south, at the corner of Nelson Bar Road and Stagecoach Lane, three neighbors squint into the sky. Air tankers roar over the trees on their way north toward the fire. It's more bad news for Ray McCarty, 74, a welder who re- tired here eight years ago thinking he'd found paradise: a mobile home with space out back for his hunting hounds. But life's been harder since his wife died of cancer last year, and now this wildfire is making him nervous. Beverly Brooks, 67, McCar- ty's landlady across the pas- ture, is even more upset. Country life doesn't suit her. She came back to tend to her ailing mother, who died in 1992, and never got around to leaving. She likes her neigh- bors, loves her Chihuahuas, but chafes at the rural isola- tion. And wildfires like this, she says, scare the wits out of her. You should be scared, Norm Williams tells her. Short and balding with a tuft of white chin whiskers, the retired logging truckdriver was raised on a ranch, across Nelson Bar Road from the Brooks place. At 74, he's loaded with opinions, and he'snot afraid to share them. This country was safer from fire before the govern- ment started meddiing, he says. Used to be, ranchers burned the timberlands to has time to grab his cell eaves. In a few minutes, the make for better grazing, and phone and call his wife, just building is ablaze, and the cattle chewed down the dry to say hello, crew retreats. grass. Not anymore. Fifteen minutes later, the Southwest of Concow Road, "They won't let you burn in wind begins to blow again, along Nelson Bar Road, both the wintertime when you Lightly at flu'st, then steadi- the brush and houses are should be bu .rning," Williams ly stronger, the hot, dry thicker than up on the ridge. said. "They claim the ozone breeze presses in from the As residents pile into cars and all that horse dootsie." northeast. Against the black and race away, engine crews And now, these firefighters hillside, the red line of fire race in. They dash from dri- don't seem to fathom what glows brighter. Embers fly. veway to driveway, deciding any old-timer knows. After Old Norm Williams was which houses to defend and sunset this time of year, a right. The fire is turning on which to write off. northeast wind starts blow- its tail. The wind increases to 20 ing off Miller Peak---opposite Around 10 p.m., Battalion mph, and flames blast into the way the afternoon wind is Chief Wayne Wilson halts the woods ahead. In minutes, pushing the wildfire now. back-fire operations along the fire explodes into a Williams mentions this to a the fire's southern edge after firestorm, a term for which couple of firefighters. They th'ey start spreading in the no precise definition exists, nod and say they're taking wrong direction, to the south. Wilson said. You just know it the winds into consideration, Firefighters douse those er- when you see it, and he' was leaving Williams to sputter to rant blazes, and bulldozers seeing it them. his neighbors, and crews wielding hand Fire looms above the tree- "Beverly, you better take tools redouble efforts to tops and crashes through the off and go down to Oroville or gouge out a fire break ahead brush, everywhere at once. It somewhere. We're liable to of the wildfire's suddenly ac- pounces upon parked cars, have fire before the night's tive southwestern boundary, leaving empty shells. It flings over." By 12:30 a.m., however, a itself against roofs and walls, By evening, however, it ap- 15-mph wind is driving devouring whole houses in pears they have little to fear. flames through a halfmile minutes. Gasoline cans boom The afternoon has been gap in the fire break and inside garages. Windows hellish for the firefighters, down the hill toward Concow melt to green globs amid the Two collapse from heat ex- Road, just a quarter-mile ash. Some houses survive while haustion. One is hit by a from where the fire started 12 its neighbors' go up in smoke. falling tree. But they've done hours earlier. A house on Nelson Bar Road their job. Fire damaged two Wilson watches from Con- falls to smoldering rubble, yet a few feet away, its white picket fence is not even singed. fire is trying to kill The fire takes Arthur Strain's house, painstakingly somebodv." built with lumber milled from a single huge fir. But it Tony Brownel[ spares the mobile home of Roy Clayton, who frantically Engineer sprays down his yard with a garden hose until his pump- house burns down. homes, but firefighters saved cow Road, waiting for the fire Just ahead, over the next a dozen others, to hit. Then he turns around hill on Stagecoach Lane, all is The westerly wind has dis- and Sees that it already has. quiet. appeared now, an~l the day's Wind-thrown firebrands Ray McCarty, Beverly intense heat is fading. At 8:45 have ignited at least 20 spot Brooks and Norm Williams p.m., an upbeat press release fires in the grass around a had watched the news a few predicts that the 800-acre barn behind him. hours before. They'd talked to blaze, with fire breaks now An engine crew starts friends and firefighters, and completed around half its spraying, but they can't put everyone had agreed: The perimeter, will be fully con- out all the spot fires. Flames fire was going the other way. tained by morning, soon swarm around the barn, And so they'd gone to bed. "This fire is over," said flying up walls and into the Capt. Darryl Sanford, relax- ing by his engine. 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