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Where there's smoke...

07/12/05

Permalink 09:32:00 am, by fumanchu Email , 1435 words   English (US)
Categories: General

Where there's smoke...

Seems we had a fire recently near our Tijuana camp; I spoke with Forrest Fowler, our Logistics Coordinator, about the event and some of the pictures he took.

Bob: So, what happened last week?

Forrest: I was doing a routine lead-in with a group about 3:00, when Luis called me as I was getting closer to the camp. And he said, "hey there's a big fire at camp." I could see it on the way in, so I wasn't too worried about it. As I got closer I realized the fire was to the south and to the west of the camp.

B: At that point it wasn't on our property?

F: No, and the wind was blowing it away from the camp. But as I pulled into the camp and got closer and started to set the group up, the wind had changed, and was blowing the fire directly towards our camp—in the south area, not where the groups are camped, but where the staff trailers are, and some of the property owner's personal stuff.

Luis had called the [Tijuana] fire department, and they showed up with a truck and a tanker. They started to work over by Luis' house; his house was the most threatened at the time.

Mexican man using a water jug to fight the fireB: Luis Vargas has a house on, or near, our property?

F: Yeah, it's at the back southeast corner of our property. His house has a big, open field next to it, and the wind was blowing the fire right towards his house. So the fire department had their truck and pumper over there trying to put that out. The fire had also expanded a bit toward the north, close to where all of the staff trailers are.

I don't know where they all came from, but there was probably 30 people from the area—just locals—that had come and were starting to help us put the fire out.

Fighting the fire with water trucks, branches, wet shirts--it was crazyB: What were you doing to try to put the fire out?

F: We were running around with tree branches, to smash it out; we had shovels and rakes. One of the caretakers had taken his shirt off and soaked it in water and was beating it down. It was crazy.

Guardiana, the company that delivers the water for our groups—they had just finished filling up the Camping Pros water container. They had some water left, so they came over and backed up to the property-line fence. The fire wasn't actually on our property, but we were trying to put it out on the neighbors' before it got to ours. He started up the generator, and we were spraying the drinking water out on the fire, trying to get it out.

B: When you say there was a fire "south of camp", that's all open field, right? Not an urban setting.

F: Right. It's open grass field fire.

Fire trucks in camp

B: So, you had the fire under control by that point?

F: After about an hour or two of working in that, jumping around to find the different hotspots, the fire department had a couple more engines come out, and we pretty much decided that everything that we could find was out. We had had one spot that we were having a hard time working on, that was over by one of the property owner's warehouses. He has a bunch of wood stakes he used for holding up the grape vines, which was basically a big giant wood pile, and we had a hard time putting that out. But we worked on that for a long time and finally got *that* out.

The fire department said everything was cool there, so Sergio from Camping Pros fired up his barbecue and cooked hamburgers and hot dogs for all the firemen; there were probably 15 to 20 firemen.

FiremanFiremen in the Camping Pros chow line

We had 3 fire trucks, and 4 pumper trucks, and the Subcomandante of the Tijuana fire department, who's the second-in-charge of all Tijuana, was out there. We got to feed them, and take some pictures in front of their engines. They waved goodbye, and I said thanks to Sergio; we talked about it a little bit, and I took off and was headed for home.

Group photo of Tijuana firemen
[Forrest is in the center of the group shot]

B: And what time was that?

F: About 6:00, 6:30. We spent about an hour hanging out eating with the fire department, so about 6:30 or so we took off to go home. I got about a mile or so down the road, right as you get on the toll road, when Luis called me on the radio and said, "hey, the fire started up again." So, I backed up and turned around, and as I got back the fire department was coming back again; Luis had called them as well. They showed up with one fire truck and 2 pumper trucks.

Warehouse engulfed in flame The warehouse in the back that is owned by the landowner, that had caught on fire. By the time we could all get back, whatever was in there was so flammable the whole thing was totally engulfed.

B: The whole warehouse? And what was in there?

F: Yeah. He had a lot of supplies for the farm—generators and PVC pipe and he had a bulldozer that he used for clearing land.

B: Was that all destroyed? Is the bulldozer out of commission?

F: Yeah. Well, a bulldozer's just a big hunk of steel, basically, so if you could figure out how to rewire everything, I'm sure that...you can't really burn the whole steel structure. But it's definitely cooked. And the whole building collapsed--burned down all around it.

B: How big of a building was it?

F: I'd say it was probably... 20 by 50 [feet]. It was wood-frame with corrugated-tin siding and roof. They worked on that 'til just about 8:30, before they were sure everything was out. As they were waving goodbye to go across the road a couple miles, there was a house on fire across the road. So they had not finished their evening.

B: But you had; you felt confident that everything was out. So you went home at that point?

F: Yes, I went home very stinky, my stuff still smells like smoke, and I was tired. But all went well.

B: Was any of Luis' property damaged?

F: No, luckily, nothing of Amor's—none of our caretaker's property, none of our personal stuff—was affected at all.

B: Was there any point at which you had to do some crowd-control with our groups staying at camp?

F: You know, I was amazed. Just because, I guess I project my curious nature upon others; but I only had one person from one of the groups come over and start poking around and trying to help and stuff. And just because of safety issues and concerns, I know that that would not be smiled upon by the administration. ;) I asked him to leave and he said, "that's fine, no problem, I understand." I thought it could have been much more difficult to get him to leave, but he totally understood. I'm just amazed that nobody came over to see more, because it was a big event.

B: I am surprised that you didn't have some panic.

F: Yeah. It was nice because the main view of the fire was out-of-view from where the campers' tents and stuff were set up. The shipping containers and a couple of large trees really blocked the view from where most of the major fire was happening. So they could see smoke, but they never really came over to investigate, which was very good.

B: Is this the first time we've had a fire out there? Is it a common occurrence?

F: This year it seems there have been a lot more fires than I remember. The last time I remember fires like this was about 10 years ago. I'm not sure whether it's because of the new area where we're camping, or if it had to do with so much rain we got over the winter and everything grew a lot more, and therefore there's a lot more to burn.

But that's the first time...well, we did have one fire experience 10 years ago when we were lighting off fireworks at the old camp.

B: (laughing) I remember that!

F: (laughing) but other than that...

B: Yeah. We don't use fireworks anymore, do we?

F: No, nope. Not anymore. :)

B: Well, I think you covered it all very well. Is there anything you want to add?

F: No, I don't believe so.

B: Okay, thanks a lot!

3 comments

Comment from: Ryan Gwillim [Member] Email · www.ryangwillim.com

Great interview! It's nice to hear the "real" story from an eye-witness perspective.

07/12/05 @ 10:10

I like this . . . the voice goes well with Alon's staff interviews and I love the first-hand look as well.

07/12/05 @ 10:23
Comment from: Heidi Petersen [Visitor]

Does anyone have Forrest Fowler's e-mail address or phone # in Canby, OR?
I'm trying to reach him.
I'm glad the fire did not damage much.
Our house burned down last summer so I know how
shocking a fire can be!
Thanks,
HP

12/05/05 @ 11:19

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