Wednesday, July 6, 2011
The Biggest Little Fire in Texas...
It is becoming commonplace to see giant plume of smoke in the sky outside of Abilene. And it always means the same thing. Most of the fires are thousands of acres and anywhere from 30-70 miles out of town (and yes you can see the smoke from that far away). So, when I saw the plume of smoke the other day I checked with the office to make sure someone knew about it and that someone was going to shoot it. The fire ended up being just up the road at Lake Fort Phantom north of Abilene.
I ended up getting there pretty quick, and was able to see the flames torching the cedar trees. It looked like the fire was burning right towards the lake. I was curious, the way it was burning if the fire departments would even bother fighting it that much, since it looked like it would just burn itself out going toward the lake. I was shooting from another cove across the lake with a long lens, so I had a great view of the flames, but no one fighting it. I sat and watched it burn waiting to see if I could get anything of the fire departments. After a while, I decided where I moved and ended up finding and old abandoned trailer that had a covered patio on the water. It was nice I had a great view and shade, which is perfect on a 100 degree day.
About the time I was starting to get bored just watching trees burn, I noticed a baby deer running around the fire. As I was watching the deer run around it almost became like a sport watching it dodge flames and try to figure out a way to get away. Finally, it went in the lake and swam around the burning grasses and ended up getting away to an unburned area. Just about that time, I heard the familiar thumping of rotor blades and then looked up and saw a helicopter flying in. Well, I guess my idea of just letting it burn to the shore wasn't going to happen. As I first watched the helicopter it was on the other side of the fire nowhere near me. Then after about 15 minutes it dropped some water on my side then went and hovered over the water giving me a clear glimpse of it doing it's job. Then it went out and made a drop right near the shoreline giving me a nice clear view. I stuck around and shot a few more drops before finally taking off.
When I got back to the office I found out that only one abandoned structure was destroyed in the fire. It's kind of funny, a couple firefighters I've spoken to call these "no glory" fires, since there isn't anything to save. It's not like they fight any harder to do their jobs, but people seem to give them less credit since there isn't anything to save. As long as no one gets hurt it's all good. So, another thing I had learned was the fire only burn 37 acres, kind of crazy considering most of the fires I've been covering the last few months were more on the 37,000 acre scale. However, that day must have been a pretty light day, finally, since the 37 acres that burned in Abilene was the biggest fire in the state that day. Hopefully it's a sign of things to come and not just wishful thinking.