Mistletoe Fire Walk

Stream through patch of burn area

Stream and ash

The, thankfully, small and quickly contained wildfire that began off Mistletoe Road was as close to our neighborhood as we’ve seen. It was, certainly, no more than a mile away. We first heard the fire engines out on Crowson Road. They stopped alarmingly close. Soon we heard helicopters and saw the smoke not far to the south of us. We and our neighbors came out and watched two Oregon Department of Forestry helicopters and one US Forest Service helicopter as their combined efforts with the ground crew successfully doused the fire in a matter of hours. The fire jumped the railroad tracks and burned roughly 5 acres before it was contained. Later that night we heard a helicopter flying over the site of the fire; I presume to monitor for any sign of latent fire life.
Railroad tracks, approaching the edge of the fire site

The Approach

One afternoon a few days later, Klee and I took a walk to view the site of the fire. We’d been wanting to walk the tracks toward town anyway so we headed out.

Path through ash with graffiti in background

Path along the fire site’s edge

We walked the tracks into a land of contrasts within the irregular edges of a charcoal landscape. The path, worn bare of any grass, weeds, wildflowers or other vegetation was an almost eerie “no charcoal zone” wandering through the burn.

Stream running under burned and broken tree

Stream under burned trees

We saw burned and broken trees with the life of water still flowing at their roots. We also saw more fire-resistant trees with singed trunks and a dusting of ash on the still-green leaves which seemed to be waiting for the next rain to rinse them clean.

We saw blackened railroad ties that looked like they had been dragged away and it looked like bulldozers may have shifted dirt out to meet and smother the edges of the fire.

There was one area of our walk where I could smell smoke rather strongly which surprised me so I mentioned it to Klee. He suggested, given the terrain and breeze I was probably smelling smoke and ash coming up from the much larger and so-far uncontained Gap fire northwest of Yreka, CA. Soon after that we, indeed, saw a rapid increase in the smoke and ash visible to our southwest. It was late in the afternoon, the sun shone through with a golden light. The intensity increased on our way home and I was so struck by it that I neglected to try to capture it with a photo. The light was golden, truly golden. The color of the ground under the golden light, the air itself seemed visible the golden rose was so strong. Lovely lovely light as result of a natural disaster. It was a terrible beauty.

Frightening when they rage out of control, yet, we know that some fire is necessary for a healthy forest, the burn, the natural trimming that clears the forest floor, it provides new habitats for animal life, some trees are dependent upon the heat to release seeds that otherwise go dormant. It brings birth and growth to the land. I expect next time we walk the tracks we’ll see fireweed and the other stalwart plants that are the first to make inroads after a fire.

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