The October 2002 Fire

We were preparing to go for a walk on Saturday the 17th when I glanced out the window and a chill ran down my spine. A large smoke plume had appeared over the ridge from us.

It is fire season at Elarra. This is the worst possible time for a fire, and there it was. Now, what was I supposed to do when there was a fire? Oh yeah, I remember.... FREAK OUT!!!!! 

The first call was to 911. "We're having a controlled burn down on Hwy 37..." - Last time I checked, Hwy 37 wasn't anywhere near Elarra, so that was NOT IT! Get someone out here!

Now what? How fast was it moving? Was it time to completely cover the house with fire-retardant slime? (we actually can do this) Evacuate everyone? Allison says "have fun with the fire dear, we're going for a walk"(!). Marc is not nearly so composed. 

The next move was to turn on all of the south facing sprinklers. The third move was hop in the car and drive down to "3 houses" to see how far away the fire was. After verifying that it was BIG but still around a mile away, 

I contacted the hikers via walkie talkie and turned them back towards the house. Then I turned on the scanner to the local fire frequencies to monitor the progress. 

The first unit on the scene was the Mayacamas Fire department. Central dispatch also called in 4 other units from all over the valley. They pulled in a couple of bulldozers. Jo Anne says not to worry, if it's really serious they will pull in the airplanes. The second photo was taken about 45 seconds later as the plane went right over the top of the hikers.


The planes were California Department of Forestry (CDF) air tankers. In all they had 3 tankers - two local and an additional one scrambled from Ukiah - and a chopper. These were all controlled by a 4th plane circling about 1000 feet above the tankers. 

The tankers circled the fire continuously, swooping in (low!) to drop a load of flame retardant when needed.


The chopper was dropping down to the valley and filling a large bucket with water which it also dropped on command.


After a while we calmed down a bit. The chatter on the scanner let us know that they were making good progress. There was very little wind that day which helped things considerably. 

Between the rapid response from the ground fire units and the aerial support, they were getting the fire well under control. So we toasted the firefighters - great job guys!!


Sunday morning we went over to Moon Mountain road where we could get a better look at the burn.


Those 15 acres could have been 1500 if not for the quick response of the fire units.

Elarra is Australian Aboriginal for "Valley of the Moon"                                                                                                       send comments to