AMY KIRK: Smoke signals best form of fire infoTo put visitors’ minds at ease, the best thing to say about a billowing column of smoke is something like, “You may notice the smoke off in the distance. This is normal around here.”
By: Amy Kirk, The Daily Republic
The best way to find out what’s going on with a fire is to look for smoke signals.
I first became aware of the Myrtle Fire while running errands in a nearby tourist town. An announcement came over the downtown loudspeaker system that plays music I would categorize as annoying, along Main Street. I watched a big plume of smoke grow in the vicinity of my community and residence as I headed home.
In the beginning stages of a fire like Myrtle, the first thing any tourist town will want to do is take care of the tourists. To achieve this, it’s pertinent to speak reassuringly to visitors about the unfolding situation. To put visitors’ minds at ease, the best thing to say about a billowing column of smoke is something like, “You may notice the smoke off in the distance. This is normal around here.”
Even if it’s not, you can say that if you haven’t actually lived around here long enough to know that a wildland fire of Myrtle’s attitude is occasional; NOT NORMAL. But tourist’s visits are short and they aren’t likely to know the difference especially if their priority is finding their toddler a buffalo stuffed animal.
Of course, when a wildland fire really gets with the program in an extremely high fire danger area infested with mountain pine beetles and suffering from a severe drought with daily temperatures fluctuating between 90-100 degrees, the most important thing is to once again, reassure tourists. Ideally the announcement should be worded in a way that sounds convincing, regardless of the current conditions that can fuel a fast-consuming fire.
The loudspeaker continued its announcement with “it (fire) is under control.” The literal translation is, “Stay here; carry on with your leisure shopping, picture taking, and looking around; your money is safe with us as long as you spend it within our city limits.”
As soon as a fire has a good running start and changes direction a few times like menopausal Myrtle did, locals will tell you the main priority of government fire agencies at this point is to establish base camp so it can be governmentally determined that extensive support is needed. Next, a large, open area with highway access needs to be established. Our freshly cut hayfield possessed ideal conditions for a large helibase where 11 helicopters landed and refueled.
Oftentimes, fire personnel begin an evacuation process. This was when I found out what my family values most. I had all of our vital records, wedding pictures and my photo scrapbooks I’d invested 3 million hours putting together, all packed. My daughter had her favorite outfits, hair accessories and iPod touch packed and my son had the gun cabinet cleaned out but we never evacuated because what my husband wanted saved from a fire was our land.
Once a big fire is under control, fire officials host a meeting about the fire’s status and answer residents’ questions. The literal translation is “complaint session.” The consensus of comments was why residents weren’t informed better about the status of the fire. A simple answer would be to look for smoke signals. Generally speaking, seeing a noticeably massive column of smoke usually means the fire is still burning.
You can learn more about how the Myrtle Fire affected Amy and her family and view her pictures by visiting her areavoices blog at http://ranchwifeslant.areavoices.com/.