Some say the world will end with fire.

Others say with ice.

From what I've tasted of desire

I hold with those that favor fire.

But if I had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate,

To say that for destruction ice,

Is also great and would suffice.

Robert Frost


"Good things come to those who wait, but, only the things LEFT by those who hustle." - Unknown (at least by me)

"Life is wonderful, without it you are dead." - Hy "Pete" Peterson - Park City and Kenecott Miner

"Don't worry about those people in your past---there is a reason they are not in your present." - Unknown

"Life's tough - it's even tougher if you're stupid." - John Wayne

"The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary!" - Vince Lombardi

"If you aren’t living on the edge, you’re probably taking up too much space.” ~ Attributed to Jim Whittaker by Doug ‘Swani’ Swantner, Alaska Smokejumper and Air Attack Base Manager (Ret.)

About Me

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I am married and have seven children and twenty grandchildren. I retired January 1, 2010 after working 39+ years for the Forest Service...NEW CHAPTER IN MY LIFE HAS BEGUN!

Monday, June 7, 2010


Todays blog is going to be about my first fire on a Type 1, National Incident Management Team. It was in August of 1986---and the Nevada/California border was tinder dry. Our team got the call to go to the east side of California to a major fire that was burning houses as it ran out of the mountains in Nevada into the flats of California. We organized quickly and they flew us out on charter flights---as that was how they got folks there fast back in my early career when we could rent vehicles at the airports because they kept enough on hand to deal with a 50 person team. The car rental agencies don't carry that many anymore which makes charter flights tougher.

I was sitting across the aisle from the Incident Commander and as we started into the airport he asked the pilot to make a pass around the fire before we landed. It was awful---you could see houses burning and see the fire approaching another house. He made the comment "that house will be gone before we land." We landed and started through our briefing. It took about an hour to get everyone there and another hour to get through the briefing and then we went out to the camp site to set up for the next days operatuions.

On the way out there I passed a D-7 Caterpillar idling along the road and as I got closer to the fire I passed a house that had it's porch just beginning to burn but had a lot of fire on it. I turned my rig around and got the Cat, drove it to the house and pushed the porch off the house and out into the brush. Then I walked the Cat back, parked it and drove my rig into camp.

I can't remember for sure but I believe 26 houses burned that night, but not the one I pushed the porch off from. The fire was tough to fight and was very fast moving so we set up for a lot of structure protection since we really couldn't get a safe place to start suppressing the fire. We sat up a pump and sprinkler system on a house and used their swimming pool for the water source. We had to activate the sprinklers and abandon this area of the fire for a few hours. When we came back all the houses we sprinkled were still standing.

We worked this fire for several more days and got it controlled and got ready to come home. As we were wrapping up the owners of both the houses mentioned came into camp and filed claims for the damage we caused---the swimming pool pump burned out when the water level dropped below the pick up point and the porch of the other house was destroyed by being pushed off the house and away from it. I could not believe what I was seeing---both houses were saved by our actions and now the owners were claiming we caused damage to them.

The lawsuits from this fire went on for years but the final outcome was that we were liable for the damage to both houses and therefore had to pay for both the porch and the swimming pool pump system. I was mad--guess I still am--if the two houses had burned that would have been an act of God but since the porch was pushed off and the pump took the water from the pool which caused the pump to burn out and both of these actions were acts of man therefore we were required to pay.

I have thought about this fire and these two incidents associated with it a lot during my career, and have since pushed other porches off houses and ran pump systems in other swimming pools where the owners did not file claims. However, I knew every time we did there was a big chance that we would have to pay the damage. So the point to this whole blog is who would be stupid enough to file a claim against someone that saved their house even though some damage was done to keep the entire structure from burning....



Nene said...

Incredible. It all boils down to that even if they were glad their house didn't burn, they just saw an opportunity to get something for nothing. People are "lawsuit crazy" these days.

PsychDoctor said...

That type of bull crap makes me angry.

Twist's Tales said...

Sounds like they were hoping for a burn for the insurance.

Amber said...

me too - I can't believe they would be that ungrateful! Such minor costs compared to losing everything!