Monday, July 15, 2013

Mid-July Update

Wait!  It’s hardly been two weeks since the last blog update.  What am I doing back here already Winking smile?

With the urgent flood situations now mostly under control, our staff have returned, and Hailey and I were able to move back to our primary fire base camp.


More lookouts needed to have their supplies flown in, so that meant another couple days in the air..CIMG9026P7038298P7038297

All of the lookouts are situated on high ground (of course), and the mountain-top ones are even more obvious targets for lightning.  This one was no exception and had recently taken a direct hit.  The result was no internet, telephone, microwave, and lights.  We brought up an electrician, and soon had things running normally again.


Of course, getting to these lookouts involves flying over lots of scenery!

Pepper’s lake



Ram Falls


Back at home on days off, the r/c helicopter got up again – for a look at a nearby drill rig in operation.


I accepted an invitation to head in to the Calgary Stampede and take in a couple outdoor shows.


On the way back to work the ground fog one morning was widespread.


One day I got on a quad course with a bunch of the firefighters who use the machines on occasion to reach isolated fires if flying is not an option.


As per request; requisite photos of Ms Hailey.


With the scarcity of fires in the area, the frequency of helicopters visiting the base has reached an all-time low.

So I was surprised yesterday to hear an un-announced machine coming in for an apparent landing.

Turns out it was a Stars rescue helicopter stopping in for some fuel on the way to hospital with a patient.  I provided the required fuel and they were soon on their way.



Monday, July 1, 2013

From Fire to Flood

After being high for a full week, it was time to head back south and enjoy some days off.  In case you’ve just joined this conversation, I was filling in in a fire lookout tower, north of Lac La Biche for a week.

Back south, the regular grind resumed.  It was time to start getting supplies delivered to the local lookouts.  Some of these are on mountain tops, where towers are not required.

This service had been moved up a day because the weather was expected to turn bad, but it was still a bit of a challenge to find the lookout – hiding up there in the clouds.

P6188119 - CopyP6188123 - CopyP6188126 - Copy

Eventually, on the second try, we made it in with the essential water and supplies.

P6188125 - CopyIMG_1511 - Copy

The weather was still threatening to close in on us, so the pilot kept the blades spinning, so we could bug out quickly should that be required.

Meanwhile, the weather did go down the drain in the following days and caused disastrous floods all across southern Alberta.  The river near my house was well behaved for quite a while, but eventually it succumbed to the temptation to join the party and I made a run home to check on things.  It made it’s last ditch attempt to cross the fields and surprise me – as it did in 2005, but by morning, it had reached it’s peak and begun to reside.  Still, as a precaution, I moved many of my belongings in the basement to higher shelves in the event of a repeat performance.

Unfortunately, my low-land neighbours did not fare so well.

The river seeks a short-cut across their land every year, and succeeds every once in a while.  My helicopter took to the air to get a birds eye view of the damage.


Although very damaging, the destruction pales in comparison to other areas of the province, as well as the flood in the same area in ‘05.

I was wondering how the onslaught of wet weather would affect business in a fire base camp.  Expecting it might get quiet, I was proved wrong.  Many of the idle fire crews and department staff were sent south to assist with flood rescue work, leaving a lot more work for those of us remaining.  I was asked to help managing a second fire base camp, after its manager was assigned flood work.

As a result, we moved our base camp in to Rocky fire base and the air tanker base.  There was not a tanker group present, so we found a spot to park on the edge of the airport taxiway.


Hailey was pleased to find that she had a new crop of mice to ‘train’, and I found myself commuting back and forth between the two bases, ‘putting out fires’ as problems arose.  The weather has improved a lot and is a lot warmer, but there a few big thunder storms to deal with.  Driving between camps one day, a very large storm overtook me.

With an immense blast, I observed a lightning strike on a tree no more than a couple hundred feet from me on the roadside.  The dead aspen had been shattered by the strike, but the tree was still shaking as I went by.  I went back and took some photos, and made sure there was not going to be a fire starting as a result.


These photos were taken only about two minutes after the strike.  Later, I went back and had a closer look at the damage.  I was surprised to see that small chunks of bark had blown all the way to the shoulder of the highway.


July is here and I expect the floods to end and the bush will start to dry out and cause some more forest fires.