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Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
July 11, 2001     Feather River Bulletin
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July 11, 2001

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61:i Wednesday, July 11,2001 NeWS Bulletin, Progressi~ressive By David Foster Associated Press Writer Special to Feather Publishing Editor's Note: The following is an award-winning series on the Concow Incident in 2000. Concow is a small community located near the west end of the Feather River Canyon. It is being reprinted with special permission from the author by the California Department of Forestry (CDF) in spreading its fire prevention message. The foUowing is the third in a series on the Concow fire. According to Mary Huggins, CDF forester and trained fire- fighter, the intent of the series is to refresh Plumas County residents" memories about what can easily happen to them. The purpose of the series is to help interest home and property owners in protecting themselves against wildfire. For more information, con- tact Plumas County Fire Safe Council representative Mike DeLasaux at 283-6125, or get on the Internet at . ...It is 2 a.m., and someone is banging on the door of Ray McCarty's doublewide mobile home. Rousing himself from bed, he finds a firefighter at his door. The wind has changed, Capt. Darryl Sanford tells McCarty and his son, Richard. The wildfire that more than 1,000 firefighters have battled all day is head- ing this way. Better pack a few things and be ready to leave, San- ford says. Then he points south, toward a house across the pasture. Anyone at home over there? he asks. "That's my landlady, Bever- ly Brooks," McCarty replies and volunteers to alert her. As Sanford's truck rumbles away, McCarty tries the tele- phone. It's dead. He drives his pickup over to Brooks' house, where he bangs on the door and calls her name. No answer, except for the yap- ping Chihuahuas. He peers in through the screen door. A living room lamp throws light down the hallway to the right. McCarty can see Brooks lying on her bed in a room at the end of "Beverly? Beverly!" She stirs but doesn't awak- en, and McCarty decides to let the poor woman be. He'd visited with her a few hours ago, calming her fears by re- peating what everyone else was saying: The fire was heading away from them, to- ward the northeast, in the starthistle. At first, the Let her sleep, McCarty fig- weeds don't ignite, and ures. If the fire gets close, Hawkins sighs in relief. he'll come back. There will be Now comes a gust of wind, time enough. He heads home, -. nother volley of firebrands. grabs'the garden hose andland like tiny bombs, starts wetting down brushand this time the thistle around the yard. Parked on Stagecoach Lane near McCarty's house, Capt. Jeff Hawkins keeps watch with his two firefighters, Joe Saunders and Paul Carlos. Behind the hill to the north, wildfire is ripping across the countryside, de- vouring houses, trees, cars, telephone poles. But here, things are calm. Stars are sparkling. There's no smoke, nor even an or- ange glow, over the wooded ridge. To Hawkins, the 40-acre pasture between Brooks' and McCarty's homes seems much safer than the man- zanita thickets he's seen all day. The field is full of star thistle, three feet high and as dry as hay. It burns like gaso- line, but any firefighter prefers it to the sustained ffire you get in dense brush and timber. McCarty's mobile home, on the other hand, is tucked back into higher brush and brambles at the pasture's northern edge. Junk is scat- tered about the yard. Hawkins sees this kind of thing all the time. People move to the country and want to live amid the trees, not out in the open. They bring their toys, then build sheds and garages to hold everything, but there's never enough room, so yards fill with boats, kennels, old cars and stacks of lumber. Such clutter is maddening to firefighters, trained to view the world in terms of its potential to burn. They lump all houses into two simple categories:losers and keep- ers. Is brush cleared at least 30 feet out from the house? Are gutters clean of leaves? Is the yard free of flammable junk and firewood? Are the walls and roof made of fire-resis- tant materials? If so, the house may be a keeper. As for McCarty's house--a definite loser, Hawkins thinks. ~+ ...... "If this thing goes, we're not setting up here," he told his firefighters. "It would be nothing but trouble." Around 2:20 a.m., the stars begin to vanish. Smoke is curling over the ridge. Glowing embers sail out of the darkness and land what he has to do, but he polls his ffirefighters anyway: Should we get them? Absolutely, both reply. The engine roars back up McCarty's drive, plunging in- to a cloud of choking smoke. catches fire. As Hawkins turns the engine "OK, boys, we're going to around, Carlos and Saunders work," Hawkins said. get out to retrieve the McCar- Already facing out toward tys. + Nelson Bar Road, Hawkins Hawkins is not one for ma- drives the engine 50 yards cho pretense. He figures any forward, to the edge of a spot firefighter who claims never fire. In the minute it takes to get scared is either crazy his firefighters to charge the or a liar. Fear sharpens the hose and start spraying, the senses. But now, with "will 1 fire has spread too much to ever see my wife again" stop. Other spot fires are thoughts running through breaking out all over the pas- his mind, Hawkins is edging ture. toward the line that sepa- Hawkins hits the accelerator, nancial recor Behind him, Ray Richard ered up earlier @M McCarty sit silently, staring them in the tru - rpt summer camp out at flames churning up the motor hora0gv Nail from the blackberries, workshop. a -'in With the windows closed, Outside the sl - Ii they hear no more of the fire firefighters stan star outside; not the roar of the trucks, rt^k". flames, not the crackling 'Why in the h brambles, not the desperate trying to put ou ttl," " howls of the dogs left behind, demands. . Norm Williams jolts "We don't uSe olgn awake. Someone's pounding the tankers unlit: wn _.zy ma on the wall of his mobile structure' oner c . opie home. Williams says ts "Your house is on fire!" he ter and grabs a ", hears a voice shouting. "Don't do that, loc; "Then put the son of a ..... heart attack," aha) out! he yells back. said. 1 He and Lesta spring out of "I been here . bed, and make it to the door. Williams said. Hawkins pulls up a few rates healthy fear from mind- Williams shakes. His wife be- yards, hoses dragging behind less panic, gins to cry. the engine, but the fire quick- It appears McCarty and his That fool firefighter got it ly catches up to them. son have already crossed it. wrong, Williams thinks. The "Cut the hoses and get in," They're still trying to round house isn't on fire---the world Hawkins shouts. Saunders up their hunting hounds, and is. Flames are in the woods and Carlos pile in, and not making much progress,across Nelson Bar Road, Hawkins speeds the truck Flames swirl around the fire right up to the pavement. along Stagecoach Lane, away engine, and Hawkins can't sit "Listen," Williams said. from McCarty's house and to- still. He twists in the driver's "what we gbtta do is keep our ward Nelson Bar Road. In his seat and yells out the win- heads on our shoulders." rearview mirrors, Hawkinsdow. They're i.n good shape to sees only orange. "Get them in here! We gotta make it out of this, he fig- They pull ahead of the fire go!" ures. Fire trucks line the and look back toward the mo- The McCartys resist. Withroad. And the Williamses bile home. Flames are licking most of their dogs now in the know the tricks of surviving at the house. Brush is burn- pickups, they want to drive in wildfire country. They wa- ing along both sides of Stage- out themselves. But Hawkins ter their lawn, mow weeds in coach Lane, and McCarty and is adamant: It's too late for the field and trim branches his son are running around that. All sweat and smoke, fa- on trees near the house, the front yard, trying to get a ther and son tumble into the which has metal siding and a half-dozen dogs into two fire engine's cab, carrying fire- resistant composition trucks, one favored hound named roof. "They're in it, deep," Bones. Williams tells his wife to Hawkins stated. He knows The doors slam shut and get the family photos and fi- heart attack, it's you guys are you're going to there's that building right by you. ter on and keep ever the hell you! since you're not nothing He strides there, standing road, is Ray "Norm, they me get my dogs ty said. "My up. Gone? remembers his bor on Stagecoach Beverly. The two men the street, Beverly wrapped in flame. -Sharearewardin ex erie! 'n partnership with outh Understanding, the world's Host an international college student this fall respected international exchange program, Feather .... 1 .......... ollege will host several Flavio Crameri, Switzerland Age: 21 Likes soccer, skiing, biking, swimming Study plans: economics Daniela Bachler. Switzerland Age: 20 Likes hiking, biking, dancing Study plans: literature, languages students this fall. onsider your life and home with a college student. It's a experience that could better life and broaden your For more information host of these students, contact Munoz at 283-0202, The Central Plumas Recre- that the preschoolers/ ation and Park District will campers be three to five offer a Little People years of age, and toilet Preschool Summer Camp the trained. w.eek of July 30. A special bonus of the The outdoor camp, which camp is free afternoon admis- will run daily from 9 a.m. to sion to the Pioneer pool dur- noon, will feature a wide va- ing camp week. The Little riety of activities including People Preschool is made pos- art, cooking, songs, dance, a sible through Tobacco Master nature hike, parachute Settlement Agreement funds. games and creative play. For more information re- The instructor for the camp garding preschool summer is Cherie Zubiate, the coordi- camp, contact Cherie Zubiate nator/instructor for "the at 283-3278 or to register, stop recreation district'sby the recreation district ad- Teeter-totters Preschool, of- ministrative office at 34 Fair- fered during the regular grounds Rd., in Quincy. school year. Zubiate requests Sesame Street program set A Sesame Street Workshop Child care will not be pro- will take place on Wednes-vided at this event. Partici- day, July 11, from 6:30-9:30 pants will receive Sesame p.m. at the Quincy Library. Street curriculum hand- This three-hour, hands-on books, training certificates, workshop is supported by the prizes and more! department of education and Please register for this is free to parents, educators event by contacting Heather and caregivers who are look- Rardin-KIXE Ready to Learn ing for a fresh approach to coordinator, at 243-5493 or early childhood education,call toll free at 1-8(D-6,554D99. Improve your love life... 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