Tag Archives: wildfires

Happy Trails, Part 94: Home is where you park it

It’s not often at all that I adopt a bumper sticker slogan as a mantra for living.

But I have done that very thing. We now live according a slogan we saw on an RV: Home is where you park it.

We just returned from a two-week sojourn — all in Texas — through the South Plains, the Hill Country, the Piney Woods, the Golden Triangle and the Metroplex.

Along the way, I adopted a new manner of referring to “home.” You see, now that my wife and I are no longer tethered to property attached to the ground, we now refer to our fifth wheel as home.

So, instead of saying I’m “going home,” I find myself referring to some geographical location. Home is attached to the back of our pickup, or it’s anchored to an RV campsite temporarily — until we head for the next place.

Our return to Amarillo reminded us of one of the “charms” of living on the High Plains of Texas.

It’s the wind, man!

Holy moly, it was howling when we departed in early April. It was howling today when we pulled into our RV park/temporary residence. We had read about the wildfires that scorched lots of ranch land; this afternoon, we saw evidence of them along U.S. 287 just west of Clarendon, where we understand the fire caused closure of the highway for several hours while heroic firefighters battled the blaze.

This arrangement — an RV serving as our “home” — won’t last forever. I don’t want to give away too much, but we might have located a precise location to resettle once we depart Amarillo on a (more or less) permanent basis. I’ll have more on that later.

In the meantime, our life now is a reflection of a slogan made popular by other RVers.

It’s cool.

Giving thanks once more for local heroes

I cannot say this enough, so forgive me if you have heard this before.

Our firefighters and other first responders continue to amaze me. I am grateful beyond measure for the work they do, the service they provide and the protection they provide to the community they swear to protect.

Some wildfires erupted west of Amarillo last night. The wind was merciless, relentless and unforgiving. The people who ran straight toward the potential danger kicked into high-gear action immediately.

Amarillo and Potter County fire crews were able to contain the blazes in fairly quick fashion.

It occurs to me that these folks are pretty damn good at this firefighting stuff. No, they’re real good at it.

We toss the “hero” term around a bit too loosely. We hang the label on athletes. We’ve actually called actors over many years “heroes” because they portray them on film or TV. I prefer the term “role model” to describe athletes’ public standing. I’ll leave that discussion at that.

As for actual heroes, they work for us, for you and me. They are public servants. Some of them don’t even get paid for their heroism. They are the volunteer firefighters who often serve in the rural communities surrounding Amarillo. They have day jobs but choose to respond when the fire alarm goes off — at which time they rush into harm’s way.

They do this to protect us. They shield us from the dangers that fire presents. These days that danger is heightened by the dual factors of high wind and lack of moisture. I cannot even remember the last time it rained in our community.

One more time — and it won’t be the final time — I want to extend a public thank you to the men and women who answer the call on our behalf. You are heroes. We all appreciate you.

Happy Trails, Part 84

My faith in our first responders remains strong.

They answered the call last night and fought some wildfires just west of Amarillo. The fire, fueled by howling wind and tinder-dry fuel, for a time threatened portions of the vast medical center way out yonder.

I awoke this morning and learned that the fires had been contained; no loss of life or even any injury. The wind is still brisk and the TV forecasters are telling us they’ll subside sometime this afternoon or evening.

It cannot settle down quickly enough.

Thank you, firefighters. You are heroes in every sense of the word.

***

There. That all said — with great sincerity and respect — I want to share a nasty “fantasy” I’m feeling.

The other evening, with the wind screaming just outside our RV, I had this nightmare scenario. We’re about a quarter-mile south of a high-speed freight rail line. Trains roar past us day and night. The TV weathermen and women tell us about the sparks generated by trains and the potential for starting fires.

The nightmare goes like this: We’re lying in bed. Someone knocks on our fifth wheel door. We open it. The park hosts tell us we have 10 minutes to vacate our spot and get as far away from an approaching fire that has just ignited along the rail line to our north.

Don’t laugh! Please!

I am now thinking it might be appropriate for my wife and me to come up with a 10-minute evacuation drill in case someone knocks on the door in the middle of the night.

Either that or we’ll pack it all up on our own time — and head to the next place.

The latter event is far more likely to occur than the first one.

Stay safe, firefighters … and thank you

I’ve already posted a recent blog item that talks a bit about the value of prayer as the Texas Panhandle battles through this latest punishing drought.

I feel the need now to offer a word of support, thanks and good wishes for some men and women, many of whom are volunteering their time to protect us from raging flames.

We’re under an extreme fire alert today and likely for the next couple of days — at least — because of high winds and the intense drought.

My wife and I can see plumes of smoke to our north and west at this very moment. They are fires that have erupted in this hideous wind storm. But dozens — maybe hundreds — of firefighters have donned their gear and have taken on the flames.

You know — if you read this blog regularly — about my admiration for emergency responders. Police, firefighters and medical personnel are at the top of my list of heroic individuals who — and I believe this firmly — do not get enough demonstrations of love and respect from those of us they protect.

Here’s something else to ponder: Many of those firefighters and emergency medical personnel are volunteers. They have day jobs for which they get paid so they can put beans on the table. When the fire alarms go off in their rural communities, they rush into action.

This by no means diminishes the value we should place on the professional responders who answer the call as well. They, too, are among the few of us who when danger erupts run toward it, not away from it.

Many of them are hard at work as I write these few words. My wife, puppy and I are comfortable in our home on wheels, the RV that is parked at a campground near Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

For that I am thankful and grateful for the men and women who are doing their damndest to keep us all safe from the flames.

Firefighters showered with love, good wishes

GRASS VALLEY, Calif. — This makeshift sign spoke volumes to my wife and me as we arrived in this small town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

They’re fighting a fire here. It’s not as devastating and tragic as the Santa Rosa fire that is blazing in California’s famed Wine Country near the Pacific Coast. It’s still pretty big.

Residents of Grass Valley and Nevada County have expressed their thanks to the men and women who have come here from far away to battle the fire near Grass Valley.

Children have written the messages. They have offered their own love and blessings and asked for blessings from God. They have urged the firefighters to stay safe to enable a safe return to their own families.

We’ve offered our own expressions of gratitude for what these men and women do. They sign on to protect and to serve. They answer the call. They rush toward the danger, not away from it.

None of this has been lost on the people they are protecting and serving, as my wife and I noticed upon our arrival at an RV park at the Nevada County Fairgrounds, which have become a staging area for roughly 1,000 firefighters who’ve come here to fight Mother Nature’s red-hot wrath.

I’ve seen these men and women do their duty up close back home in the Texas Panhandle, where we’ve lived for more than two decades. Wildfires have ravaged our landscape over the years, too. They have destroyed homes, killed livestock and, yes, taken some human lives too. The firefighters have braved dastardly wind that often sweeps across the High Plains. I salute them every chance I get.

I am doing so again as my wife and I watch these young firefighters prepare to enter the field of battle against the flames.

I am absolutely certain they appreciate the community’s expression of gratitude displayed on that chain-link fence that surrounds their base camp. They are in our thoughts and prayers.

Ranchers respond with kindness

You think humanity has gone to hell? You worry that we’ve become so very cynical that we care little about other human beings, that we no longer feel empathy for their heartache?

Perish the thought.

A lot of ranchers in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles have endured more misery than anyone should endure. Wildfires scorched thousands of acres of grassland, from which these ranchers harvest their hay to feed their cattle, which they send to market and, thus, earn their livelihood.

So, how do other ranchers who have been spared the flames respond? They load up big flatbed trucks with bails of hay and send them many miles down the highway to their stricken ranching brethren.

I’ve heard about the convoys of trucks tooling down Panhandle highways. They come, of course, from neighboring ranches in the immediate region. They also are coming from neighboring states.

This kind of response helps me purge any latent thought I might have when I hear about cruelty and heartlessness among my fellow human beings.

We are proud in this region of the spirit of community that resides in the hearts of those who live here. We express it from time to time when disaster strikes. Lord knows the High Plains region is prone to heavy wind and Mother Nature’s violence. Fires do plague the region on occasion at this time of year.

That community spirit demonstrates itself when tragedy does strike.

Such as when we see trucks loaded with bales of hay heading toward the scorched Earth.

Time for prayer as we enter fire season

I believe it’s time to say some prayers.

For firefighters who are battling blazes across the vast landscapes of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles. For those who seek to assist the firefighters. For everyone with homes that might be in the path of destruction.

We’ve had a couple of pretty rough days along the High Plains.

Some firefighters were injured battling blazes in Potter County. What’s more, three individuals have died in Gray County while trying to protect their livestock from the murderous flames.

Livestock has been lost. Property has been destroyed.

There might be much more to come as spring’s arrival approaches and as the traditional “March winds” ratchet up.

This is a dangerous time to live in this wide-open region, in this area with little natural obstruction to the winds that howl across our landscape.

City and county officials impose burn bans. They tell us to take care when operating open flames. They warn us of the consequences if we turn a deaf ear to those warnings.

And yet …

People continue to flout the common-sense advice that flows their way. They flip cigarettes out motor vehicle windows. They light barbecue grills in howling winds, allowing red-hot embers to get blown way beyond their reach.

Let’s all understand something. It is that we’re a chronically dry part of the world. Sure, we had some good moisture earlier this winter. The grasslands are dry at this moment. Never mind the snow that blanketed the region earlier this winter.

The March winds will blow. There’s nothing we can do about them. We can, however, seek to minimize the effect of those winds if we just take a bit of extra care, heed the warnings our local leaders want us to hear.

And some earnest and heartfelt prayer surely cannot hurt.