I remember standing in the boutique at the Phoenix Shop in
One of the bolts struck the hillside, just beyond the first ridgeline, and it took only seconds for the first puff of smoke to materialize. It would never have occurred to me that weeks later, that same little flicker would still be burning, miles away in the back of
While the Reserve was still ten miles to the south of the fire, a survey team paid a visit early on in the event. It was clear that the fire was advancing to the south, and the team was searching for the right place to construct a containment line on that boundary. After reviewing the Reserve’s GIS maps and discussing its fire history, the group concluded Dolan Ridge was the right place. A dozer line on Dolan Ridge had saved
It took several more visits by the “dozer command”; bushwhacking a trail through the poison oak and mature Ceanothus; and constructing an escape route for the dozer operators who would be coming down from the
While the fire eventually did burn all the way to the line, it was held there after several ferocious battles. The fire crew set several backfires to reinforce the line, with flames leaping 100 feet in the air around Eagle Rock. The fire even tried to sneak into the Reserve at the southeast corner, near
We saw the impact of the fire after the first week, when the skies were full of smoke and ash. The Barn Swallows and Funnel Spiders were having a difficult time finding bugs, both in the air and on the ground. There were also very few bees to be found. On a sad note, we lost several adult swallows and two nests of eggs when the cabin was gelled and wrapped in fire-retardant fiberglass. The swallows in the other buildings have carried on, and the second clutches of babies are now starting to fledge.
We have also observed new California Quail chicks in the yard. One family has two fathers and one mother, plus four juvenile chicks. And to our delight, there is another “communal” family of two fathers, two mothers and thirteen chicks. At one point, all thirteen chicks were crowded under one set of parents, trying to stay warm in the morning fog. The parents sat near each other, on the ground, making a tent of their wings and feathers for the chicks. It looked like two birds with twenty-six legs.
Folks have asked us what might have happened to all the animals in the back country. When we hiked up the Dolan Ridge recently, we saw lots of mountain lion tracks; and the trails on the Reserve are covered with scrape marks. We are sure there are lots of new cats in the neighborhood, and all of them are attempting to mark their new territory. They will all be competing for the smaller animals in the food chain in the coming months.
That survey of the dozer line on Dolan also revealed one more promising sign: there were hundreds, maybe thousands, of little green shoots sprouting out of the scorched earth. This is one positive result of a fire occurring so early in the season: there is time for the plants to reestablish themselves before the winter rains come.
While the community of
Terry Hallock and Feynner Arias