Friday, August 23, 2013

Scenes from the front lines

Sightings and notes from covering the Beaver Creek Fire


By EXPRESS STAFF

    Finding humor in stressful situations at times can be a healthy response. Here are some observations compiled by reporter Jennifer Liebrum from the field over the last 10 days while covering the Beaver Creek Fire.


Sasquatch?
    The Sasquatch expert who visited the Ketchum library last month spoke of numerous reports of sightings coming from Forest Service employees, too afraid of mockery to tell what they saw.
    Former team leader and Fire Information Officer Wayne Patterson said a former employee came off a fire in Mount Hebo shaken to the core by a monkey creature he said he had seen on the edge of the forest.
    “He swore the monkey paused on a log, looked over his shoulder, glared, and then disappeared into the forest,” Patterson said. “Guy was the most down-to-earth guy, but he was really shook up by it.”
    Fire Information Officer Rudy Evenson said he had a buddy who swore Bigfoot was striding beside his truck as he fled an area.
    Neither event was investigated.


Everyone’s a critic
    Fire information officers puzzled aloud about the art of AK-47s and prayer flags on the east side of Highway 75 near The Meadows.
    “Interesting,” “Hmmm,” “Is that a threat?”
    Final interpretation? Guns and llamas?


My pool or yours?
    One Elkhorn resident said his evacuation plan, if the fire came over Dollar Mountain, was to grab his cat and his money and jump into one of the pools. A neighbor replied that he had his eye on one pool in particular because it was cleaner.


Now that’s service
    When pre-evacuation orders were issued for Ketchum and Sun Valley, traffic became so snarled on Main Street that Mountain Rides buses were unable to move and complete their routes. Two passengers, waiting at the Wells Fargo bus stop—one destined for Sun Valley and the other for Elkhorn—waited for a Blue Route bus that didn’t seem to be coming.
    Jason Miller, Mountain Rides executive director, was walking the streets that day, trying to make sure that riders were accommodated. He told the would-be riders that they could catch a bus at the corner of Main Street and Sixth Street and suggested they walk there. Once at the location, Miller arrived and diverted a Red Route bus from its normal schedule to pick up the two riders and get them to their destinations.


Cat critique?
    Fire information officers said local firefighters doing structure protection in the valley saw a mountain lion watching them work. Valley residents have also reported seeing a displaced cougar walking along the highway.


Commemorative wearables
    Been there done that, got the T-shirt to prove it. A silk-screener from Wyoming—who acknowledged fires back home—was hawking souvenir t-shirts along Buttercup Road. He had competition, however, and authorities moved the show down the road.


Power struggle
    Observers of the Carbonate burn were concerned about the power station being hit. The utility trucks were rolling in every direction during the blaze.
    Thick smoke grounds electrical wires, making the mix one of the most dangerous for firefighters. So, in addition to replacing power poles, workers were pressed to beat the heat to save lives.
    Someone asked what they want on their T-shirt when this was all over.
    “Let’s just say, ‘Idaho Power hates fire.’”


Did you know?
    Tornadoes aren’t the only natural disaster leaving people uttering, “It sounded like a freight train.”
    When trees begin to burn, the wind makes the sound of a whistle wailing that precedes the snap, crackle and pop.


Friends indeed
    Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey reported that by Wednesday night his office had received about 7,000 bandanas donated by local residents. He called the donation effort “hugely successful.”
    Fire incident managers have encouraged people who would like to do more for the firefighters to make donations to local charities instead.




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