Fishing in the Dark...
Posted: Monday, Jun 18th, 2012
I don’t know exactly how we’re going to handle it yet, but this community and residents of the surrounding area owe one big huge debt to the firefighters of this area and countless others that came from out-of-state to save homes and keep lives intact.
Often Bob and I are not directly involved, at least at a personal level in incidents of this nature.
This time, we are.
And I can tell you that I can’t recall a more frightening experience than what I came home to Sunday afternoon after they had called for the evacuation of residents on Pleasant Valley Road.
After seeing smoke that morning over the hills well north of where it had been on Satruday night, I got an uneasy feeling for awhile. Bob was gone to a rock show in Torrington (no, it wasn’t AC-DC or anything like it) so I called him to let him know I was going to do some further investigating to see just where the origin of that smoke was.
The hills and valleys in this area are extremely deceiving when trying to pinpoint a source of smoke because it all runs together and the sense of direction and distance is so difficult to assess. So after closing the horses in the corral, Troy Reichert and I went to investigate--just a bit more out of curiosity than real fear. We went to a hillside off the tank trail near the railroad’s west end. We thought we saw fire on the east side but it was really difficult to determine the exact location without being able to see the lake or river. But we could see part of Brimmer Point and it seemed there was fire just south of it at the time. Since we really couldn’t tell, we decided to head north of Hartville to see if there might be a better vantage point. We ended up at the Kindness Ranch and manager Swimmer was good enough to take us to the highest point at the ranch which gives quite a view of the valley. We had spent some time getting there as he explained to us the care of the dogs and cats and his methods of preparing them for adoption. While it was all very interesting, when we topped the hill and I began to take pictures, the location and heaviness of the smoke we were seeing by then was making me feel a bit anxious about just what might be going on down below.
We headed back down, stopping in a few more places and then my phone began to ring. First the Torrington paper, then a neighbor and then Bob, saying the officials were at our door, telling us we should evacuate. My heart sank when I heard that. Those are the kind of words that just make your mind lose all organized thought process and I don’t mind telling you that even two full days later, I don’t really have it back yet. I guess I had so convinced myself that it wouldn’t really happen that when it did, it was almost unbelievable.
When Troy and I turned the corner from Highway 270 onto Pleasant Valley Road, this is what I saw:
There were firetrucks, water trucks, crew trucks--you name it--sitting up and down both sides of the road just before our driveway. Between the trucks were 20 to 30 young guys, dressed in the green and yellow wildland fire colors RUNNING toward my house. We followed them in the driveway and when I cleared the corner of the garage and could see the house, here sat the Guernsey Rescue Unit with lights flashing. It was a sight and situation I don’t ever want to see or be in ever again.
Bob has some breathing issues due to asthma which are generally not a problem. But the smoke he’d been breathing all day had lowered his oxygen levels to the extent that his blood pressure had soared to stroke level. The first people in the house that talked to him about moving things and leaving sensed that he wasn’t right and called the rescue unit. So they were there, working on him when I arrived.
If you think I look crazy on a “normal” day, you should have seen me then--I know it wasn’t good and I was not together for about a good 15 minutes. I recall talking to and answering Jim Wagner and he was desperately trying to take care of Bob and calm me down at the same time. He got a better response with Bob than he did me, at least at first. The vision that we had when we turned that corner and on into the drive will be forever with me and I think that’s why my reaction was so over the top.
I finally did get my wits together and they transported Bob from our place to the Wheatland Hospital but I didn’t know that when they left.
But I didn’t have time to worry at that point because now it was time to get busy grabbing everything I wanted to take. As one specific firefighter whose name I do not know, escorted me through the house, at least 1/3 of the young guys began taking things out of the house as I decided. He kept talking to me, working on helping me focus and the others started helping Troy move our eight horses to Roy Gebhardt’s place.
We managed to get everything I could determine important at the time and it seems to me that we had it all done in less than 45 minutes, including a second trip to get the remaining horses. The dogs came with me--the chickens are running loose.
For now, we’re living at the Bunkhouse and managing ok. Bob was taken to Wheatland where they treated his pressure and sent him back with more medication. He has been pretty much “grounded” to indoors until this smoke is dissipated. At this point, we believe our house is safe and things will likely be contained before it moves much more as long as the wind doesn’t return to 65 m.p.h. gusts like it did Saturday night. We managed to gather some clothes when they briefly allowed us back in Monday morning and we snagged a few more keepsakes and important items.
After seeing the flames surround so many homes along the lake entrance road Saturday night, I believe we are more than blessed. Those folks came close to losing it all but didn’t and it’s primarily due to the efforts of the firefighters.
I just know that we all owe these guys and gals. There will never be enough words to express how we feel. For now, I think the best I can do is just say “thank you.”
It gets too hard to talk beyond that.