Tag Archives: Life Stories

Dinner Can Wait

“Ding!” I look down at the text, sigh and kick off the high heels I had just slipped on. Dinner down in the desert can wait; we have a call out.

15 minutes later my heels and dress have been exchanged for an orange shirt and hiking boots. I’m sitting in the passenger seat of Lee’s truck as we bounce up the rutted dirt road leading to South Ridge Trailhead.

It’s a search. Out from the coast for a relaxing time camping in the mountains, the subject (Herb) had wandered off to the South to meditate, became disoriented and used his cell to call his friend back at camp. As Herb became increasingly lost, his friend made the call to contact 911.

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We see the red and blue flashers ahead and pull up parallel to the Sheriff’s car. Mark Young is the RSO deputy on scene. He’s in contact with the subject by cell and already has a good handle on the situation.

Deputy Young uses his previous military experience to help pinpoint Herb’s location. “Point your chest to the setting sun and describe what you can see in front of you.” Having the subject turn in a circle and relate what he sees at each 90 degree angle gives Young a good idea of Herb’s location. This helps him guide the Sheriff’s helicopter rapidly to the spot. Star 9 hovers above Herb for several minutes, allowing us to get a bead on the direction and distance we’ll need to go.

We get the news that several members of the team from off the hill are on their way. Gwenda is bringing our RMRU Rescue Truck, Dana is heading up the mountain and Paul is already on the way out from Orange County. Good to know- if anything goes wrong we may need additional people.

Since we still have daylight, Lee and I make the call to head out as a hasty team and see if we can locate the subject before nightfall complicates the matter. After a quick cross-check of our gear, we swing on our packs and head out cross country through the heavy brush. Thick stands of Manzanita, Chinquapin and various other thorny and spiky obstacles have us swerving off course more than once. We note landmarks along the way to keep us on track for our way back.

Once the helicopter peels away and the forest becomes quiet again, we yell ahead to establish voice contact. “1…2…3… Hello!” Herb responds loudly and boisterously “Hey, Hey, Hey! I’m over here! I’m here!” His voice is coming from a few hundred yards directly ahead. “Stay put! We’ll come to you!” We start out again, picking our way through the brush and calling out once in a while to make sure we stay on course.

Within a matter of minutes we crest a hill and come across a thankful Herb. He’s dressed in tattered blue sweatshorts, his arms and legs covered with scratches from forcing his way through the sharp foliage. After shaking our hands, he gratefully guzzles the Nalgene of water Lee passes his way. “Man, I’m soooo glad to see you! I was waving at the helicopter, but then he flew away. If the deputy wouldn’t have kept telling me to stay put, I would have definitely moved!”

After giving Herb a few minutes to drink and eat, we make the call to head back quickly. We might still be able to beat the sunset. Herb certainly isn’t dressed for nighttime in the mountains and the temperature will be dropping quickly.

Lee is familiar with the area, and after a few minutes of hiking he locates an unofficial mountain bike trail. Having a nice, smooth, brush-free trail makes the going much easier for our exhausted subject. We reach the truck and load Herb into the back seat. We pull up next to Deputy Young as the last fading rays of the sun disappeared in the west. Mission accomplished.

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Desert Rescue Decathalon

Map of Rescue at Horsethief Creek, Cactus Spring Trail

“You never believe everything you hear.” ~ Haley Hightower

It was supposed to be a simple carryout. But if there’s one thing you learn in Search and Rescue, you should never believe everything you hear about a call-out.

The “heads-up” text comes in at 12:30 early Friday morning; a warning that a call-out might be on it’s way. I groan, roll back over and stuff my head under the pillow. The call-out may or may not happen, but I’ll catch as much sleep as I can in the meantime.

At 1:30 the sharp “ding” of a text announces that we do indeed have another mission.

Everyone but Craig Wills and I are off the hill tonight. With the team so short-handed, there’s no going back to sleep on this one. I roll out of bed and shuffle over to pull on my hiking pants and orange shirt. I load the 4Runner up with gear: my standard call out pack plus additional food, water, medical, warmth and overnighting gear. Even though it’s reported as a simple carryout, you never really know what’s coming when you hit the trailhead. I swing by Craig’s house for a quick pickup and we’re on the road with our traditional Rammstein blasting out the stereo.

The request is to assist Cal-Fire with a critical carryout. Intermittent cell service contact with the subject tells the highly dramatic story of a man with “two prosthetic legs, injured and covered in blood.” Cal-Fire is already on trail to his location. We are to provide backup manpower on the litter.

The flashing lights lead us directly to the fire engine at Cactus Spring trailhead. We arrive on scene, ready to spring into action. Not so fast. We’re informed that the fire crew is already on their way back out, but without the subject. They hiked in several miles with a heavy litter in their full call-out gear, but were not able to locate the subject at his self-reported location at the crossing with Horsethief Creek.

Apparently the elusive subject has moved and isn’t responding to attempted voice or cell contact. With failing headlamps and sagging energy the Cal-Fire guys are simply not set up for a major search. What was once assumed a simple assisted on-trail carryout has now become a full-blown search covering miles of wild canyons.

Oh man. I look over at Craig. This is big country out here. There’s a lot of ground for just two people to cover. I guess we’d better get to it! As Craig and I conduct a last cross-check of our gear and sort out our plan of attack, a paramedic brings the welcome news that DSSAR has been contacted to join in on the search with an additional 6 people. We decide to hold off heading into the field until we have the additional manpower.

In the meantime, the RSO deputy has established shaky cell contact with our subject once again. Parked at the Tewanet overlook, the deputy pointed his headlights out into the abyss of canyons south of the 74 and was able to roughly ballpark the subject’s location on the trail. The deputy repeats cardinal rule of Search and Rescue to the subject: “Stay put. We’re coming for you.”

The united RMRU/DSSAR Search team decides we will hike in together with CDF along the trail. Once we can see the police vehicle headlights, we should be directly in the subject’s vicinity. He’s been told to stay put, so we should be good to go. Great! Sounds simple enough.

As we head out, the final search party consists of RMRU and DSSAR joint squads joined by 2 CDF and 1 paramedic carrying around 60 lbs of gear. We take turns trundling the litter and the wheel over the dusty and rocky terrain towards the subject’s last reported location. Hiking with a litter can be strenuous, even without a subject strapped in. After several minutes on litter duty the cold night seems suddenly all too warm and we stop to strip down to our bright orange team shirts.

RMRU Cactus Spring Search Reference Map
RMRU Cactus Spring Search Reference Map

After a couple miles we reach the crossing with Horsethief Creek. Staring up in the moonlight we survey the challenge ahead of us. The ridge looms in front of us, a final extended vertical push of steep and rocky switchbacks up to where our subject supposedly awaits us. We stop to deliberate. Should we lug the litter up this extreme grade without confirmation of the subject’s whereabouts? He’s already moved on us once. “That could just burn us out- and if he’s not there, well…” notes Sharon from DSSAR.

We call out towards the ridgeline “1…2…3… Hello!”…and wait expectantly for an answer. None comes. Calling again produces the same result. The decision is made to leave the litter at the base of the climb until we’ve confirmed his location. He should be nearby. How far could a man with 2 prosthetic legs get in this sort of terrain?

We wind our way up the ridgeline, towards the slowly brightening horizon to the east. We call out once in a while, just in case our subject has gone to sleep or wandered off trail into a nearby ravine. Reaching the top of the climb, I look to the North. In the far in the distance the red and blue flashers of the deputy’s vehicle are visible, its headlights pointed directly towards us.

Police Flashers at Tewanet Overlook
Red circle around the Police car lights at Tewanet Overlook

Radio contact with the deputy yields disturbing information: He recently saw the subject’s light 400 yards below our current location. Since there’s another ridgeline between us and the road, the only way the subject’s light could be seen below us is if he’s …(sigh) massively off trail! Oh dagnabit: He’s been moving again! I share a look of frustrated understanding with Craig. We both know we’re in for a much longer night.

Looking again to the North, I can understand why the subject would be tempted to make a go of it. The lights from Highway 74 are so tantalizing. They appear to be so close, almost within reach, especially when the rough terrain and impassable cliffs are concealed under the cover of night. But still- you have to marvel that a man with two prosthetic legs could make it that far off trail in this kind of rough terrain! Something just doesn’t seem quite right here.

Craig Wills on Trail: Cactus Spring Search
Craig Wills on Trail on ridgeline above Horsethief Creek

After a brief conference, the decision is made to head back down to the crossing with Horsethief Creek. We’ll attempt to access the neighboring canyon by following the scar of the boulder-strewn creek downstream. We once again make the wise decision to leave the litter at the crossing. In brightening light of dawn, we pick our way through the rocks, debris and puddles that clutter the narrow base of the ravine.

Just over a mile in we receive encouraging radio contact: “He’s on the move! The deputy can see him!” The subject has made his way to a ravine far below the Tewanet lookout. Of course the canyon is far too steep for him to climb out of, but now we at least have a visual. The deputy establishes faint voice contact and finally gets the subject to stop moving.

A few minutes later, even better news crackles its way over the radio. A Cal-Fire Helicopter is available and will be here in a few minutes. “Alright!” The relieved team shares a quick celebration as we take a much-needed break from clambering through the ankle-twisting rocky debris. Snacks are passed round and drinks shared. As the thup-thup-thup of the helicopter approaches our mood starts to lift. Help from the air is always appreciated.

RMRU/DSSAR Search Team waiting for the Helicopter
RMRU/DSSAR Search Team waiting for the Helicopter

“The copter says we’re about 1500 feet from him as the crow flies, but there are some very steep drop-offs between us and him,” the Cal-Fire crewman on radio detail reports. Getting to the subject on foot would be very difficult and extricating him on foot even worse. Luckily, the weather is calm and clear and the canyon wide enough for the Cal-Fire air-crew to hoist. What a relief. We stand by as the Cal-Fire Helicopter extracts our elusive subject and returns him to trailhead parking lot.

Cal-Fire to the Rescue
Cal-Fire to the Rescue: Helicopter extracting the Search Team

 

Now all we have to worry about is ourselves. After hiking around all night carrying a full call-out pack and litter after a moving target, we’re not looking forward to the long hike out. Luckily, our generous friends at Cal Fire have a greatly appreciated solution: spend the extra time and effort to extract the search team as well! The helicopter crew drops a man in along the trail behind us to clear a landing zone. The copter extracts us in groups of three, cutting an exhausting hike of several hours down to a matter of minutes. Thank you Cal-Fire!

Back at staging area we get the scoop on our subject (who has refused medical care and already left). The man “covered in blood” with “prosthetic legs” was actually a guy with a couple of bad knees who had gotten a bit scratched up by the brush during his cross-country travels. Craig and I look at each other and can’t help but laugh. What a great punch line.

Sigh… like I said before… you should never believe everything you hear about a call-out.

Run Away From Your Problems

Exercise and stress

A tightening in my throat,

‘Put down the plate.’

‘Don’t break anything don’t break anything’

Go for a run. A sprint… let it out, breathe through the tightening throat until it loosens, push the quads up the steep slope till you can only think about what you have to do right now, not worry about what was or is or might be…

Turn it all off and just run.

Let me go…. Let me run.

My cousin is sick. Very sick with something that in her case won’t get better and probably will get worse. I just got news that she’s in the hospital again. I have a similar condition, but I’m in remission. I’m a nutritionist, I’m a trainer with a passion for medicine and health, I make things better, I’m a healer. But I can’t heal this. I can’t make it go away. And as I watch her waste away I feel hurt and powerless… and it just adds to the baseline. I’m worried about my family- the stresses of my brother’s life, my aging parents’ health, my own health that I’ve just reclaimed. Sometimes it gets to be too much and I need to run.

Walk in the door, drop down my keys on the counter. I’m fine, I’m in control… I’ll work through this’… The heavy red keychain clanks on the thick oak. The sound breaks something in me. Suddenly I’m crying.

Bawling and gasping.

Standing there in the kitchen. I pick up and manage to put down in quick succession: my favorite red flower plate, my handmade acorn mug, a drinking glass…. “Don’t break anything, don’t break anything.” I must be angry under all of this crying, because the urge to break something is almost undeniable.

“Go for a run, girl. Go for a run. You’re ok, you just need a run. You’ll be ok. You’ll be ok.” Keep repeating it as I shimmy into my running pants, shrug on a sweater and my Merrells and beeline for the front door, barely closing it behind me.

Icy air bites my face. I wedge my headphones into my ears, take large strides to clear the end of the driveway and swing right to take on the steep street. Crank the volume up and jump forward to a song with an aggressive beat that takes me up the hill and away.

Run Away.

It turns out that ‘running away” from your problems is not a problem. I used to think that there was something wrong with me that I couldn’t just “think it out”. But guess what? We’re not made that way! We are made to move- and there’s nothing wrong with using physical activity to deal with stress- in fact it’s just what the doctor ordered.

Exercise is one of the best to ways to clear the mind. According to researchers (and a lot of people like me) it’s a great and natural way of dealing with anxiety. Recently scientists have started to pin down exactly how exercise works to help us cope by disrupting the various feedback loops that worsen the effects of stress.

Anxiety Feedback loops

“The mind is so powerful that we can set off the [stress] response just by imagining ourselves in a threatening situation,” relates neuroscientist Bruce McEwen in his book ‘The End of Stress as We Know It’. So, the more we think out our stress, we literally make it more real and threatening to us and make our response to it worse and worse. Thanks, real nice catch 22.

By providing something else to focus on, exercise short circuits this nasty loop before you work yourself into a frenzy… And here’s the news flash- If you can work yourself into a frenzy, you can run (or hike or bike) yourself out of it. Just as your mind influences your body, your body affects your mind.

How it works: made to move.

In order for your mind and body to be optimally functioning, you need to move. Staying still and dwelling on it will just make matters worse:

“Researchers immobilize rats in order to study stress. In people too, if you’re locked down — literally or figuratively — you’ll feel more anxious. People who are anxious tend to immobilize themselves — balling up in a fetal position or just finding a safe spot to hide from the world…in a sense any form of anxiety feels like a trap. The opposite of that, and the treatment, is taking action, going out and exploring, moving through the environment.” Sparking Life

Tense muscles? You need to get out and go. Physical activity (especially short bursts of intense activity) reduces the resting tension in your muscles. This disrupts a nasty anxiety feedback loop between your muscles and brain. If your muscles are tight, you are much more likely to be anxious- and vice versa. If your body is calm, your brain is less likely to spiral into worry.

Exercise also produces calming neurochemical changes. As our muscles begin working, it sets a process in motion that makes more tryptophan available to our brains. More tryptophan = more serotonin. This helps to calm us down and enhance our sense of safety. Heart muscle cells chip in and produce a molecule called atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) that puts the brakes on the stress response. Trust me, this is a good thing for your overall mood.

The best thing is, exercise works both immediately as a quick shot in the arm and increases stores of serotonin, GABA (the main target for most of our antianxiety medicines) and norepinephrine in the long term. In fact, research reveals that it’s at least as effective as anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications without the side effects. Sparking Life

So, when you say you feel less stressed out after you go for a run, hike, or even a swim, you are.

A Rocking Good Time

RMRU Technical Rock Training, 05.05.2012

“Make sure to bring your rescue gear”. Lee says on the phone Friday night. I’ve called him to ask if I can borrow his ascenders for the team training tomorrow. “Really? You think I’ll need it?” Famous last words…

Saturday, 7:30 am. My wheels kick up gravel along the gritty dirt road deep in Joshua Tree’s Indian Cove campground. The sun rises behind me, painting the faces of the rock a golden red, promising a warm day ahead. Dust follows my 4Runner up the road towards our team campsites. The familiar RMRU Rescue Trucks and a scattering of orange shirts says I’ve arrived.

A few team members are already working on personal skills high up on the steep rock walls surrounding the campsites. More cars pull in. We exchange warm welcomes and start gathering our team technical rock gear for training.

Pete Carlson gives a brief training overview. “Today we’ll be working on secure anchor setting, setting up pulley systems, controlled litter raises and lowers. These skills will help you do your job and save the lives of our subjects and teammates. Stay on task, work hard with your team and enjoy yourself!”

Technical Rock Training: Anchors

We break off into groups. Donny peels off to the southwest with those who want to practice setting anchors. Pete collects the more advanced technical crew to dive immediately into setting up raises and lowers for our litter system off of a steep rock wall to the southeast.

Donny reviews the use of cams, hexes and nuts. How do you evaluate the rock for the most secure placement? He runs us through different scenarios, covering the possible pros and cons. Place the anchor in a crack that flares outwards towards the direction of pull and the piece will be at risk of walking and yanking free. A crack with parallel, or better yet, walls that come together along the direction of pull will yield a bomber hold.

We learn to check the quality of the rock, watching for potential crumbling or flaking. Rock crystals that break off or flaking sections can allow the anchor to shift and put you at serious risk of the piece failing. The strength and angle of placement are critical. Even though anchors have flexible stems, their angle to the fall line (the angle at which you are placing the most weight/force) is important. If you place the piece too far off angle the torque can cause the piece to rotate, ‘walk’, and potentially pop out of position. Just in case you were wondering, this is not good.

Donny shows us how to assess placement of multiple cams in order to maximize the strength of the system. Once again the angle is key. A wide angle running from the anchors to their point of attachment weakens the entire system. Donny explains how lengthening the runners along the fall line can create a tighter angle and also help equalize the load for a stronger system. When we are low on runners, placing the cams closer together can yield the same effect.

I listen intently. Not only our own lives, but those of my teammates and subjects will be at risk if I get this wrong later. The weight of several rescuers, their heavy team gear, full rescue backpacks, a sturdy stokes litter and a subject will all hang from our placement of these pieces.

We split up to practice, with Donny coming over to critique our anchor placements and test their strength.

Nearly a Rescue

The call comes in around 9:30 am. Team President Rob May comes over to let us know. “Collect your gear and clear out. We’ve got a rescue! Meet at the base of the tram. No other details yet”. Glenn and Gwenda head out first to see if they can get more info, while the rest of the team packs up the technical gear and sorts it into the truck.

Dang it, Lee was right! A call can come at any time. I start mentally berating myself for bringing everything but my winter gear. It may be warm down in the desert, but if this turns into a mission in the high country I very well may need the crampons and ice axe still nestled deep in my gear closet at home. Dang! One more lesson learned.

The team peels off one by one into an informal caravan heading towards Mt. San Jacinto. I fall into line behind Paul Caraher and Matt Jordan on the highway. Traffic that was tolerable this morning now seems to creep as we cruise along behind cars forming a slow moving roadblock. Midway through the drive a cell phone chain carries the news to the team- the mission base has changed to Whitewater.

Aviation to the Rescue!

Just a few minutes after we pull into base we get the news. Aviation has scooped up the “disoriented PCT hiker” from high on Fuller Ridge and is already en route to our location. Bewildered grins are passed around: 20+ rescuers and no rescue!

We hear the “thup thup” of the copter within minutes. Star 9 sets down a few hundred feet away. As Tony and Juvien from Aviation escort the subject to the waiting rescue crew, I can’t help but notice that the he doesn’t seem well prepared. He is wearing a dusty cotton Tshirt and cotton pants. His backpack is old and from a distance doesn’t appear to have a sturdy waist strap to properly distribute the load. An old Walmart style sleeping bag and mattress are rolled up together on top to form a bedroll.

I don’t get a chance to talk to the subject, but it’s pretty likely he didn’t have the necessary gear for the mountain. Mt San Jacinto is the first serious non-desert challenge along the route of the PCT. A lot of thru-hikers gravely underestimate the conditions. We’ve already had a rash of heads-ups and rescues due to ill prepared PCTers this season.

Pic- caption- personal Rock Skills- Donny Goetz and Alan Lovegreen form a 2 man anchor to belay Les Walker down a 100 ft rock face.

Back to Business

The “nearly a rescue” has eaten hours of our time. When we get back to JTree our prime location for training has been taken by eager rock climbers. After some time for lunch and personal skills Pete and Donny scout out a new location for litter raises and lowers. The rock at the new location is more complicated, but we take on the challenge and start setting up our anchors to get into litter raises and lowers.

The DG (decomposing granite) rock makes setting anchors challenging. Obvious cracks end up being too unstable to rely on. Despite the crumbling cracks we manage to securely place a selection of cams and hexes. We tie in our red and blue runners and equalize them, distributing the weight leading toward the fall line where we will tie in the litter.

Litter Attendant

I volunteer as the first Litter Attendant. With experienced guidance from the senior members I clip into the litter in the middle and guide it down the face of the rock, using the weight of my body and leg strength to guide it over the uneven rocks. The litter must be held as level as possible in order to not endanger the subject.

The Litter Attendant not only guides the litter, but must keep constant tabs on the condition of the subject. If they are in shock it’s important to keep the head tilted slightly down to increase blood flow to the brain. If we suspect a traumatic brain injury we tilt the litter slightly up to reduce swelling and hopefully buy them some more time before brain damage results from the pressure.

I call out the orders loudly, “down slow…” Holding the litter with both arms I lean back with my full weight and let the strength of my legs, the tension of the rope and the team above do most of the heavy lifting. We hit a tricky spot along the route that threatens to throw the litter off kilter. “Stop!” I look back over my shoulder, decide to head for the rocks to my left and readjust my grip. Chad relays the orders to the rope team at the top. Good communication is key. Down we go.

Guiding the litter back up is challenging and great practice for a real fife scenario. With Kelly securely strapped in I use the Prussik knots to adjust the angle of the litter and keep her level as we ascend the uneven rock faces. I reach up and pull my line to the litter, lengthening it in order to give my legs more purchase as we head back up. “Up, slow!”

At the top I unhook and climb into the recently vacated litter as Matt Jordan takes the lead as Litter Attendant. Mike George and Frank Snider follow us up, while the rest of the team take turns running the rope system and trying out some of our expensive new team gear.

Job Well Done

By the end of the day we are all hot, dusty and in need of a comfy camp chair and a cold beverage. The moon rises to the east as we eat, relax and stare into the campfire. It’s time for stories, laughter and pranks on those who go to bed early. Definitely a day well spent, despite the snag of the “nearly a rescue” incident of the morning.

Prescribed (heart)burn

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I live in a rural area that has about the same amazingly fire resistant properties as fluffy cotton ball tinder- on a hot, dry day…. with a butane torch held under it for good measure.

Our family ranch in Sage (on Sage Rd) is surrounded by large amounts of dry Sagebrush, dry chaparral, oaks (with dry leaves), occasional pines (with dry needles) and dry debris, with plenty of dry invasive grasses to add extra oomph to the potential conflagration. (Bonus! Now with more fuel!) This leads to conditions that might be generally described as “you’re f*^#ed!” when fire season comes around. We pretty much know each of the local firemen by name. We’ve run the fire prevention gamut: prescribed burns, backfires, helicopters dropping water and retardant in wide swathes like graffiti from giant orange spraycans across the land.

Each time a backfire or prescribed burn is suggested, my heart drops down into my stomach and panicked thoughts run through my head; what about the safety of the process? The possible risk to land and home? Will the animals make it out alright if something goes wrong? Will we?

Our family homesteaded this land. That’s pretty uncommon in California, with its big box stores, strip malls and cookie cutter houses. Here everything is new- anything over 10 years is considered dated. 20 is old and venerable and fifty is practically enshrined as ancient. Our family has lived here for over a century and a half. Most of the houses and structures are well over 100 years old and have housed several generations. That may not seem like too long on, say an evolutionary scale, but it’s plenty long enough to grow more than slightly invested and attached. Every time a fire passes nearby a chill runs down my spine. The suggestion of purposely setting a fire as a preventative measure makes me nervous- even if I see the necessity.

Several years ago, 3 adventurously dumb kids with motor bikes and a desire to avoid boredom in the most destructive way possible set a fire (by mistake, one sincerely hopes) near our property. The blaze proceeded to burn a large section along our Northwest flank, leaving the land resembling an unhealthy bald patch on a mangy dog.

The fire department took one look at the fire raging (ushered along by our good friend, the Santa Ana wind) and made the decision to let it burn through a section of overgrown, dense chaparral to remove the accumulated dry debris. In essence this was an accidental form of a ‘prescribed burn’. It was a nervous time for us- there is always the fear of the fire escaping the tenuous ‘controls’ and burning down everything that we’ve built. But as quickly as it had come, the darn thing decided to peter out. The winds died down, and the fire quickly followed…

Later next year, a much larger fire swept through the area again (not an odd occurrence in an area where we have a fifth season- Fire season), ravaging much of the land to our Northwest. We watched from (relative) safety as the fire block provided by the accidental “prescribed burn” from the year before protected our house, leaving us in a little island of our own.

Breathing in the air heavy with smoke particles (some of them so large I could swear that I could feel them rolling grittily down my throat and into my lungs…) Oddly enough, despite feeling a bit sick to the stomach and having a pounding headache from the smoke, I ended that day feeling rather good. Our home wasn’t a crisply charred black charcoal shell, my garden with its bounty of luscious tomatoes was still there, the old butchering oak and hammock with the view of Mt. San Jacinto still stood in place, swaying in the breeze.

I know that there are many obstacles that fire managers face when using fire as a management tool- The unpredictability of wind and weather, the issue of obtaining enough funding and crew with experience necessary to carry out the job, the need to make extremely quick decisions concerning millions of dollars of property and human lives that will later be judged by the general public are just some of the difficulties in fire prevention and prescribed burning.

I’ve been in this situation myself, and even though my heart was pounding the entire time and my stomach does flip flops until the last flames die down, I have been more than happy with the results. Thank you, Sage volunteer fire crew.