- Posted June 12, 2008 by
Bonny Doon, California
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Wildfires blazing near you
The Martin Fire in Bonny Doon, California
I start this story with phone calls and text messages from friends about this fire. I looked up to the North from where I was in Santa Cruz, California, and could see the cloud of thick smoke. I usually have my vehicle packed and ready to leave at a moments notice, for a month long trip if needed.
I jumped in my Ford Bronco, powered everything up, turned on my police scanner, programmed my GPS and headed out. It took me about 40 min to get there, as the fire continued to grow in front of me I took Highway 1 North, to Highway 9 East, to Empire Grade North.
They were not allowing press in at this time, due to the severity of this fire, I live in Santa Cruz and I wanted this story, people needed to see the threat of this fire in our forest to help prevent fires in the future so I parked, got out to take a few pictures, and ended up down a dead end street when I asked permission to use someone's back yard to access the ravine that lead to the fire. I hiked 1.90 miles as I mapped out my route in Google Earth, through steep terrain, thick mazes of Manzanita bushes, and dark forests of redwoods before I reached the fire line.
I calmly took pictures, and filmed this powerful fire as many other fires I have confronted. I had not seen or heard a single person from the time I left the now distant neighborhood on the other side of the creek ravine. Getting closer to the fire there were deer and rats that crossed paths with me trying to escape the fire. I walked just a few feet along the fire line looking for my shots. I shoot in HD with my JVC GH-DH1 for my movie I have been working on since 2003, and can switch to the lower quality DV mode for the News Stations wanting the history of this event as its captured. At the same time I have my 10mp digital camera strapped to me, it's an OLYMPUS E-300.
I am wearing fire protective gear, boots, a hard hat, breathing apparatus, camel-back pack etc......I can hear propane tanks igniting in the distance and helicopters overhead. I found this trail that leads into the smoke, fire burning on both sides, I decided to make it into the fire zone. As I quickly went past the flames feeling the heat for a moment I thought this was a bad idea........then the smoke cleared a little and I was in the eye of the fire.
The farther I walked away from the fire line that had just burned past me on both sides the clearer it became. I found myself in this empty place I have been to so many times before experience hard to explain the smoke, still covering the sun tinted in this brownish red shadow ashes falling from the sky, heat coming from the ground.
I walked through this dead forest to come to a clearing where sadly, one house was lost and the rest were saved. I spoke with the owner as seen in some of the pictures I offered my help and support in any way quietly, I sympathized with his loss and tried to respectfully give him his space [he told me about the years of time he had spent assuring he had adequate defensible space and fire insurance. The fire surrounded his entire property; it only took the house from the center of it and left several others.
I walked out through the desolate neighborhood, some homes that had just survived the fire. Then past the brave firefighters that would later help contain it. I found my way out on foot and made it back to my Bronco to upload my media into my laptop to later air on NBC and CNN!
A thought I had after making it safely out...it's time to get a satellite phone. I couldn't get service anywhere in Bonny Doon, California.....