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Thread: a little fire fun or a fun fire?

  1. #1
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    a little fire fun or a fun fire?

    Long story, grab your favorite beverage and kick back if you are inclined to read.

    Tuesday I had to go visit my spine splicer, about an hour and a half trip each way. Got there and filled out all the first of the year paperwork and such, they even collected a hundred on my deductible, then mentioned that the appointment had to be rescheduled!! The back has been contrary for months and a three hour road trip wasn't a pleasure. While I was expressing displeasure about various things the lady offered me the hundred dollar check back to mollify me. Might have helped a bit but I'm still looking for a doc closer so the one or two wild goose chases a year aren't three hour trips that cost me forty dollars in fuel.

    I get home, my back miserable from the drive. I take a few pills and crawl in bed, not much sleep the night before anyway. Wake up to frantic banging on my door and young girls screaming. I looked at the clock, only four o'clock, my groupies rarely show up before seven. Get some jeans on and stagger to the door. Two young ladies are in search of a bucket. Seemed to have something to do with the tractor out by my pond and the roaring fire on the bush hog still hooked to it. I dumped the contents of a five gallon bucket and handed it to them. Then I went inside to get some shoes on so I could help out.

    As I opened my door again my neighbor was there, asked if I would call the fire department for him. I told him I had given the girls a bucket, should be adequate to put out the fire. V explained to me that it wasn't that fire he was concerned with. He pointed and that is when I saw the fire in my hay field that hadn't been cut in over a year. Maybe two hundred feet from my house and coming fast driven by strong winds. Luckily the winds had the flames primarily running an angle a few degrees from my house but it was still very much threatened.

    My brother has a 32 horse John Deere with a front end loader that is locked in the barn. Makes a fair drag. I grabbed keys to the barn from my bedroom, to the tractor from my truck, and bolted. It isn't at all clear that the house won't be in flames in a matter of a few minutes. Fired the tractor and headed across the rough field catching a lot of air here and there, them things need shock absorbers! I had called 911 and told them to call the fire department, called them back when I saw eight or ten foot flames at the front of this grass fire, most impressive flames I have ever seen from a grass and fairly short weeds fire. "Call Forestry, the fire department isn't gonna get it done!"

    I told V there was a hose reel in the barn, grab it while I work with the tractor. No chance of putting the fire out, just trying to hold a line between the fire and a chain link fence around my small back yard. We were stepping and fetching when the first fire truck rolled up but while it was nip and tuck we were holding the fire away from my structures. Maybe twenty acres aflame at this point though. The fire department started calling in reinforcements including Forestry.

    Soon other trucks were coming in and at one point we had six or eight trucks and a bulldozer that was cutting fire breaks. At least six different departments, I never met most of them. Literally from all four points of the compass though. My nephew Nate was there, Captain of a city fire department thirteen miles away and his was one of the closer departments. Forestry never made it, busy fighting fires other places although they had a chopper circling later.

    The fire made it to the woods on the north, south, and east sides. Fortunately the sun had went down and the wind slowed some, still seems a miracle that the departments got the fire under control after it entered the edge of the woods to the south where it was wind driven and on a front a hundred yards wide or more. Thought we were had when it hit the woods and V's house wasn't far across those woods.

    Turned out this had been a day of fire for the entire parish(county) with 20-30mph winds making even tiny fires into monsters. One department made at least fifteen calls that day and some of the trucks left this site after things were under control with sirens wailing and beacons flashing headed to fight another fire.

    The rest of the night was mostly spent putting out hot spots and watching for fresh outbreaks of flame. There were large areas of embers high in a tree in the southern woods that I didn't want to fall into tinder while nobody was around to put things out so it looked like I was going to fell a couple eighteen to twenty-four inch trees after midnight on a dark and gloomy night.(It was, I couldn't see a thing!) To make matters more fun one was an obvious trouble tree to fell.

    I went and grabbed two saws, wedges, a sledge hammer just in case I could gently tap the tree a time or three and persuade that glowing widowmaker to fall, gear, oil, gas, all the things needed to do some tree whittling. My neighbor was cutting laps also and we met under those trees which he had been watching too. He had a much better light than I had and I could see that the widowmaker was actually a hollow in a still living main branch of the tree. It appeared to be out now although no doubt still burning internally so we decided on a wait and see policy. Neither of us were inclined to do much tree felling in bad footing by the dark of the moon!

    Up the next morning, cutting my way to hotspots in the southern woods and putting them out. Saw work but briar blade and shovel too. Hard to get to dirt with all the roots but nice moist dirt was the best thing I had to smother flames. Sawing logs, which unfortunately didn't mean sleeping, dragging them out the woods to well burned areas where they could burn in peace, clearing, and cutting down still burning pieces that were hanging in the air to fall and scatter fire everywhere involved another full day.

    Net loss was some grass that needed burning anyway and a huge pecan log that came from a tree snapped off by Katrina. It had seasoned well off the ground and I planned to get some turning blanks from it. Friday night now, seventy-five hours after the fire started and that log and a few other hot spots are still sending plumes of smoke into the air despite rain and ice lightly falling for over twelve hours. All hotspots are well inside areas without other fuel though and winds are mild. The great fire of January 2014 seems to be history.

    After twenty of twenty-four hours fighting fire or hotspots my throat is raw, sinuses miserable, lungs not thrilled but no indications of major problems. I ran the little tractor in the fire for several hours, sucked up more smoke and ash than I should have but once I started fighting fire to protect the house I couldn't stop and watch while volunteers were fighting the fire on land I care for.

    My hat is off to the guys and gals that do this all the time, full timers and volunteers. There may have been a time I could have done it, I don't think there was ever a time I would have done it for very long!

    Hu

  2. #2
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    So Hu, the gear box overheat and cause the bush hog fire and consequent '014 fire? Did the tractor with the bush hog burn up? Isn't it amazing how serious events can override a back ache? But man, after the adrenaline wears off I feel for you, you'll be flat on your back! Congrats on saving the home!
    Jon

    God and family, the rest is icing on the cake. I'm so far behind, I think I'm in first place!

    Host of the 2015 FAMILY WOODWORKING GATHERING

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan Shively View Post
    So Hu, the gear box overheat and cause the bush hog fire and consequent '014 fire? Did the tractor with the bush hog burn up? Isn't it amazing how serious events can override a back ache? But man, after the adrenaline wears off I feel for you, you'll be flat on your back! Congrats on saving the home!

    Jonathan,

    The official story is that I was inside asleep, I don't know how that fire started. However, that bush hog had the exposed clutch in front of the gear box like some have to protect the drive train when you hit something that doesn't give. I have seen several fires over the years that were started by those clutches slipping and getting hot. There was a lot of dead ragweed in that field and a lot of chaff from it. If I was a gambling man I'd bet on that clutch causing the fire. However there is a wash through the pasture that drains a half mile or more of highway ditch so trash including glass bottles finds it's way into the pasture. Could have been the sun through glass started a fire, could have been part of the ag operation, could have been most anything.

    The tractor is fine, I'd guess at the very least the bush hog gearbox needs new seals. As you suspected, the back wasn't a happy camper after the hours spent fighting fire the first night. My light chainsaw didn't want to start the next day so I worked with the big saw all day aside from wasting time jerking on the pull cord of the little one now and then. By that night me and the back weren't even on speaking terms. The things I would like to do to that back if I wasn't so attached to it!

    Anyway, when the final score is tallied, I lost a pecan log I would have liked to cut some blanks out of to lathe turn. The field benefited from being burned even if it wasn't a scheduled event. Very dense briars and second growth around the edges of the woods so the fire breaks are new paths for me to get into the more open woods to hunt other downed but still solid wood for lathe blanks. No structures damaged, very little equipment damage, and most importantly no injuries. Looking at it after having time to take a deep breath, just life on the farm!

    Hu

  4. #4
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    a little fire fun or a fun fire?

    Wow, what a story. I had front row seats to a large wildfire in LA a few years, but it didn't threaten the house like yours did. (This was the Station Fire...largest in the history if the state.)

    Glad you had no more damage than you did. And you may not realize it, but losing that pecan log may have been a blessing in disguise. They call dry pecan 'pecancrete' for a reason. Woodpecker lips are softer.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vaughn McMillan View Post
    Wow, what a story. I had front row seats to a large wildfire in LA a few years, but it didn't threaten the house like yours did. (This was the Station Fire...largest in the history if the state.)

    Glad you had no more damage than you did. And you may not realize it, but losing that pecan log may have been a blessing in disguise. They call dry pecan 'pecancrete' for a reason. Woodpecker lips are softer.

    Vaughn,

    I suspect there is some merit to what you say about the pecan. It was buried up in briars and second growth. I have been thinking about it ever since I set the lathe up and just got around to cutting a path into it a few weeks ago. I haven't been in a huge rush to fight with it! Still enough to cut some blanks if I wanted to mess with the inch or so of charcoal on the outside anyway. I have a living chinaberry tree that is in the mahogany family. A little coarse grained but much more appealing. It is just a snag with a few small green branches so it won't be a bunch of mess to clean up. Out in the open in the side pasture too so as soon as I make sure it has no sentimental value to the family, down she goes. Probably a dozen or more blanks there and I have all of these woods to cruise now. Biggest consideration is anything I cut has to come out. I can put a block or two in the little trailer behind the lawn tractor though so I think I can get in most places with a little effort. The little John Deere is only five feet wide so I can pick up about a ton with it if I can get it into an area. Lifting off the back of the bucket I think it is rated at 3500 pounds, regardless, I can tote anything I can get in the bucket.

    Hu

  6. #6
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    That could have had a much, much worse ending!

    All I can say is wow, glad you got things under control....
    Programmer - An organism that turns coffee into software.
    If all your friends are exactly like you, What an un-interesting life it must be.
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  7. #7
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    Sounds like there was a little luck and whole lot of hard work there! Glad it all worked out!!!

    I've been on several smaller fires and they can be darn scary (one we burned about 50 acres of sage brush - but it wasn't near any buildings and another we almost took out a 2 acre orchard)

  8. #8
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    You drove 3 hours to a scheduled appointment and they didn't attempt to notify you the spine splicer wasn't available. You need to fire that guy. No excuse for that. Nothing like a fire to get your heart pumping. Good thing you had equipment and water and everything turned out OK, but it sounds like a close call. Kudos to the young ladies that woke you up. I always wondered if one of those big irrigation pumps and a good water source could maintain a fire perimeter around a structure in a high wind.

  9. #9
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    I am so sorry to hear about your back---THAT IS NO FUN!
    Be a good guy and take it easy for awhile (I know, fat chance on a farm.).

    Get well and Enjoy,
    JimB
    First of all you have to be smarter than the machine.
    VOTING MEMBER

  10. #10
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    trying multi-quotes

    Quote Originally Posted by Brent Dowell View Post


    That could have had a much, much worse ending!

    All I can say is wow, glad you got things under control....


    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Mooney View Post
    Sounds like there was a little luck and whole lot of hard work there! Glad it all worked out!!!

    I've been on several smaller fires and they can be darn scary (one we burned about 50 acres of sage brush - but it wasn't near any buildings and another we almost took out a 2 acre orchard)
    Brent, Ryan,

    Thanks! There was more luck involved than I care for. I have a fifteen gallon electric orchard sprayer in the barn too, didn't have the fifteen minutes or so needed to fill it and hook it up. I had a small fire in the short grass only three or four months ago. I had watched burning leaves for four hours with hose out, until there wasn't any signs of flame on the outside of the pile. Went inside for a quick shower and when I looked out the pile looked exactly the same but a fire had sprang up about thirty feet from it and was running towards the tall grass in two directions. Two fires in less than six months plus the neighbors talk about fires too. It is a lot windier and dryer here than just the sixty miles south I am used to. I am going to do considerably more to be ready to fight fire. May never need to again but far better to be prepared than to count on a generous portion of luck to save the day!



    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Calver View Post
    You drove 3 hours to a scheduled appointment and they didn't attempt to notify you the spine splicer wasn't available. You need to fire that guy. No excuse for that. Nothing like a fire to get your heart pumping. Good thing you had equipment and water and everything turned out OK, but it sounds like a close call. Kudos to the young ladies that woke you up. I always wondered if one of those big irrigation pumps and a good water source could maintain a fire perimeter around a structure in a high wind.
    Some of the big pumps certainly could if I had enough of a water supply. I have seen ten and twelve inch tractor powered pumps. They would drain my shallow pond in fifteen minutes or less. A smaller pump would be effective but I'm thinking I need a complete kit and a plan in place.

    It was a three hour or a bit longer round trip, plus time in the office. It is an hour and a half to two hour drive each way.
    Somehow in spite of having my current address the doctor's office managed to have a very old phone number, I had given them two more since then. The secondary next of kin number they had for me was still valid, seems like they could have called it. One reason or another I make one or two dry runs a year having to see that doctor every three months. Needed records not in place, rescheduling, or whatever. A good doctor, a poor businessman as many doctors who also try to run their offices are. Doctors need some buffering from patients to get anything done, some patients would call and talk every day. At the same time someone who is running a business needs their customers or clients to be able to contact them. When management can't be contacted and doesn't provide constant direct oversight then there is no management and the staff does to suit themselves and works at whatever level of competency they care to. I have seen this over and over with doctors running their own offices.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim C Bradley View Post
    I am so sorry to hear about your back---THAT IS NO FUN!
    Be a good guy and take it easy for awhile (I know, fat chance on a farm.).

    Get well and Enjoy,
    JimB
    Jim,

    After hurricane Isaac destroyed the home I lived in I told my doctor that all restrictions were out the window for awhile, the ox was in the ditch! The last time I saw him a little over three months ago I told him things were going pretty poorly. I also told him that I had returned to the lower pre-Isaac levels of activity. He looked at me and said "In your case that doesn't mean much!" One flaw with seeing a doctor every three months for eight years, I'm honest with him so he knows me well. He did tell me that my back health was in a state of decline. We can't do anything to slow it down but I can definitely speed it up. He is a friend and spent some time talking to me seriously, I have to respect what he had to say. Trying not to be foolish but when something like the fire happens all bets are off.

    The first time I called 911 the nice lady told me to not try to fight the fire myself even not knowing I am technically disabled, wait on the firemen. Almost a certainty that would have cost the house. With the help of V on the hose I was able to establish a blacked in area of already burned material between the fire and the house using the front end loader as a drag to smother flames, much of it accomplished in the first five minutes.

    I wouldn't trade where I am at for a mansion in a city. Things can get interesting sometimes though!

    Hu
    Last edited by hu lowery; 01-25-2014 at 06:40 AM.

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