Monday, August 20, 2007

At the fire

We headed out to the Ford fire for a while on Sunday to see if there was anything useful we could do. I heard about the fire from an Outpost staffer who saw the smoke as she drove home from work. A few minutes later, my friend Gary Svee called, and we went to see what was up. From initial reports, it might have been a refinery going up or something equally dramatic, and we wanted to know for sure.

Lots was going on, but it was an impossible story for a weekly newspaper to cover. Becraft Lane was blocked by a fallen tree, and so we stopped by the Lockwood fire station. We heard that 400 homes had been evacuated in a three-mile radius around the fire. We talked to a woman who said the strong winds that accompanied the afternoon storm had riffled the tiles on her house -- the first time that had happened in 11 years out there. Other people were standing around anxiously, waiting for news. Smoke hung heavy in the air. No word at that time on any injuries or any destroyed homes. That news came later.

So what to do? We had a sneaking feeling that we were more likely to get in the way than to do any good. Gary had to get home. We would have to wait a while to try to get up in the hills to shoot pictures. Any breaking news we dug up would have been ancient by Thursday, when the paper comes out. I could have hung around and dug up feature quotes, but considering how uncertain it all was, even those likely would have been obsolete by press time. Theoretically, we could provide daily coverage on the website, but with tons of work waiting at the office, there was no chance to update meaningfully today and Tuesday.

So we made a brave decision. Gary went home, and my wife and I drove to Tiny's Tavern to drink a couple of Schoonies and listen to Norrine the Outlaw Queen and her band. She had been urging me to come hear her for several years, and it at least seemed possible to work off that longtime obligation.

What a contrast. The beer was cold, the chicken was hot, and the band was relaxed and enjoying itself. Tunes by Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson and Eddy Arnold filled the evening air. Norrine gave the Outpost a half-dozen good plugs, which meant that going to hear her play probably was a better business decision than trying to cover the fire.

The smoke in Lockwood seemed very far away.

UPDATE: The governor will be in Lockwood at 2:30 p.m. today for a look at the fire.

No comments: