I was able to drive up the boulevard and park my jeep near the command post before the cops got serious about traffic control. I was happy about that, sometimes accessing the scene is a chore. I always get in, it's the grief I get during the process that is trying.
Although it only took me 15 minutes or so to get there, the fire had already made its primary run into the neighborhood and had butted up against a greenbelt., slowing the fire spread. Secondary runs were in progress - it was one of those I was hoping to capture.
I checked in with the chiefs and let them know I was there. I snapped a few pictures of the Ops chief and the BC, poring over maps, talking on the radio and doing other chiefly duties. While not usually the most intense photos, they can be dramatic as they capture momentary facial expressions that sometimes show pressure and stress.
They scene was still dynamic, with units arriving, then hurrying to their assignments. The radio frequencies were crowded with the arriving units receiving their assignments and other units giving reports to the division supervisors as to what was going on. As a result, I opted to leave the vehicle where it was and huff it up into the neighborhood. The last thing I wanted to do was get in the way.
I walked up an access road, the smoke blowing through the trees lining the edges. I walked past a couple of engines, their crews donning hose packs in preparation of punching in a hose lay up the left flank. I knew most of these guys and I waved to them as I strode through the thick smoke.
I stopped to reassure a homeowner as he used a garden hose to hose down bare dirt. I offered some advice, hinting that maybe hosing down his reed fence or patrolling the backyard for smokes might be more productive than squirting dirt. His nervousness may have caused him to forget that bare soil doesn't burn.
I moved on, looking for that elusive shot where lighting, flames, smoke and firefighters all do what I needed them to do in order to capture a good image. I was disappointed, it was more like all of the components of the event were conspiring against me, keeping me from doing my work.
I walked back down the road and found that several of the engines had been pulled from that location as a higher priority assignment had been received. I was alone and when the wind shifted ever so slightly, I was able to see out over the incident and get a glimpse of what was happening in that division. Sadly, the smoke was still bad enough to make a good photo impossible. I snapped a few anyway - you never know for sure until they are downloaded whether they are acceptable or not.
After a few minutes, I spotted an unmarked SUV drive up the road. I recognized it as the Fire Chief. we chatted for a few minutes and I snapped a photo of him moving some hose that had been left behind when the units were repositioned. I caught a ride with him down to the command post and snapped a few more pics of the brass in action before deciding that things were dying down and my opportunities were greatly reduced.
I walked to my jeep, watching my brothers mopping up the mess as I walked. I took off my brush jacket and helmet, stowed my camera and headed home, waving at the chiefs as I drove by.
I walked in the door and found The Saint kicking back with her feet up. I grabbed a cold beverage and joined her. We chatted and I shared with her my activities, noting that my friends were still there, climbing, spraying, grubbing and picking up, meanwhile I was kicking back, talking to a pretty girl and drinking a cold drink.
When I run into people, it is almost inevitable that they will ask me how retired life is. I will think of this afternoon and I will say "pretty damn good". That's how it is.
Thanks for reading,