Like white on rice. That’s how fast the cargo plane was onto
what could have been the next big Pebble Beach fire - and
practically at my doorstep, no less.
I watched in
shock and awe as the Spruce Goose with orange stripes made wide
circles over the bay. It lumbered directly over my roof, barely
skimming the 100-foot pines, its gargantuan white belly loaded
with fire retardant. Then it disgorged its orange chemicals in a
waterfall over the greenbelt merely blocks away.
I had first
smelled something acrid and after stepping outside to curse my
neighbor for having a fire on such a nice day, I noticed a plume
of grey smoke huffing like a cigarette from the trees beyond. A
weird wind had come from nowhere and was whipping the smoke
straight my way. It required a face mask to stay outside and
assess the conflagration – that’s how bad the smoke was, really.
second person to call 911, they asked, “Do you see flames?” And
after I replied, “No, there’s too much smoke,” they said a fire
engine was on its way.
As I stood
perhaps 10 minutes, observing the fire, I began to panic. What
if it goes out of control? Will my cats scissor the leather
upholstery in my sports car? Which pictures really matter? What
do I own that really matters, anyway? Oh, yeah, my computer.
stupefied when, no more than five minutes later, on the very
heels of the first fire engine, the goose arrived. Obviously,
somebody had their act together and it must have been the
California forestry department (I’m really not sure because
Coast Guard planes are white and orange red too).
With my cat
carrier safely at the door I continued to stare at the unfolding
drama but not before I called all my neighbors and yelled into
the phone, “Fire! Fire! Look down the street . . . Just wanted
you to know.”
I had to
make a few amends after that. “Sorry, I am known to be an
thing a helicopter was whooshing overhead dragging what looked
like a dinosaur’s umbilical cord (Oops! They laid eggs, right?).
Several circles over the fire and I noticed the smoke abating,
puffing up, abating.
50 minutes, the planes and helicopters had vanished and so had
the smoke. Disbelieving that a fire of a magnitude requiring a
Spruce Goose could be totally extinguished so quickly, and
wondering if I’d merely hallucinated the drama, I drove down to
what I expected to be acres of charred forest.
One of the policemen directing rubberneckers pointed into the
bushes but, still, I saw nothing.
amazement, I learned several days later that the fire had only
consumed one-quarter of an acre. And after a walk in the area I
still didn’t see where.
incredible that they got a big plane out here so fast, huh?”
said a Pebble Beach ranger.
I have changed my mind about a long held opinion that we
shouldn’t elevate public servants to heroism because they have
chosen their field and get paid for it.
I’ve adopted the “not in my backyard” stance for fires and I
will kiss the feet of any aviator, fire person or police person
who stands by me . . .