Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Big Blaze

After our enjoyable stay in Hedley, we strapped on our bikes once again and rode towards the smoke that choked the valley up ahead.  Roy wanted to stop at some famous rock in the middle of a river and even though he explained how a person could climb it and dive off, all Richard and I saw was a big rock in the middle of a river.  The B.C. government likes this rock in the middle of a river so much that they have posted official signs pointing it out to passing motorists.

It wasn't much farther on that we pulled over to the side of the road to witness a drama unfolding on top of a mountain up ahead and to our right.  A helicopter buzzed overhead carrying a Bambi bucket and a bomber was strafing the fire with retardant.  Circling high overhead, a fire official in the birddog plane was acting as Forward Fire Control and directing the fight.  We straddled our bikes transfixed as the wind fed the flames and caused them to create a flare hundreds of feet high.  Motorists pulled off the highway to watch.

Knowing there was nothing for us to do and since the fire was too remote for the forest service to come and recruit any of us to join the fight, we saddled up and kept one eye on the dramatic scene as we rode into Keremeos.  I remembered a picture I had seen in the Globe and Mail before leaving of a mountainous fire just outside of Keremeos but I had no idea at the time that our trip would take us right there.

All those fancy forest fire fighting terms I used above to impress you come from having spent summers hanging out of helicopters with the Alberta Forest Service back in the late eighties when I was a freelance cameraman.  My experience there was a real eye - opener and while the work was risky, I loved every minute of it and still to this day would choose a rotary wing aircraft to a fixed wing any day of the week (more impressive terms).

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